Howard Gardner, an American development psychologist said, “The biggest mistake of past centuries in teaching has been to treat all students as if they were variants of the same individuals and thus to feel justified in teaching them all the same subjects the same way.”

In his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983), Gardner introduced the concept of different types of intelligences as opposed to one generic type. According to the multiple intelligence theory, there are eight intelligences—including musical, naturalistic and linguistic—that can help us identify our strengths, abilities and sensibilities.

  1. The Multiple Intelligence Theory

  2. What Do Multiple Intelligences Mean?

  3. Gardner’s Eight Types Of Intelligences

  4. Criticism Of Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences

  5. Discovering Who You Are

The Multiple Intelligence Theory


The multiple intelligence theory, although with its fair share of criticism, rejects the idea of intelligence depending solely on our logical reasoning abilities i.e., the widely-accepted IQ test. Several teachers and educators have adopted Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to understand their students and their affinities toward learning.

It may be useful to identify each of these intelligences in the context of a professional setting. Not to be simplistic, but focusing on differences as intelligences—rather than personality types—may help us lead teams better, improve communication and determine our own strengths and weaknesses.

What Do Multiple Intelligences Mean?


Before we dive into the theory of multiple intelligences, it’s important to understand the meaning of multiple intelligences.

Human intelligence defines our cognitive abilities to understand, interpret and accept things around us. Our intelligence helps us plan, solve and apply reason or logic to situations. But in addition to logical reasoning and critical thinking, our intelligence also contributes to our language ability, decision-making and communication, among others.

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences claims that there are eight types of intelligences that can be used to differentiate people.

  1. Musical-Rhythmic

  2. Visual-Spatial

  3. Verbal-Linguistic

  4. Logical-Mathematical

  5. Bodily-Kinesthetic

  6. Interpersonal

  7. Intrapersonal

  8. Naturalistic

The important point here is that according to Gardner, each of these multiple intelligences works almost in isolation or independent of each other.

Gardner’s Eight Types Of Intelligences


If you want to learn about what type of intelligences you possess, read on to discover more about each of the multiple intelligences.

  1. Musical-Rhythmic

Think about virtuosos like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. With their excellent musical ability, they shaped classical music for centuries to come. Musical intelligence means that people have a strong sense of pitch, tone and understanding of musical patterns and rhythm. Perfect pitch or absolute pitch is the ability to identify and mimic musical notes perfectly. Someone with a musical intelligence could ideally be a classical musician, singer or play in the orchestra.


  1. Visual-Spatial

Visual-spatial intelligence allows us to visualize things clearly and assess little details with precision. This type of intelligence helps you navigate structural problems and recognize shapes. Engineers possess visual-spatial intelligence, given their ability to understate design elements and complex structures. Recognizing patterns, decoding problems and interpretation are some of the skills associated with this intelligence.


  1. Verbal-Linguistic

If storytelling, public speaking and writing are your strengths, you have a strong linguistic intelligence. People with an affinity for lexicon and semantics show verbal-linguistic intelligence. The ability to convey thoughts and ideas clearly, memorize information and persuade others are some of the qualities that a linguistically-intelligent person will display. Avid readers have a high linguistic ability as well.


  1. Logical-Mathematical

Good logical reasoning and high aptitudes are associated with logical-mathematical intelligence. This is the type of intelligence most closely linked with the intelligence quotient or IQ. It helps you think critically, make sound assumptions and rely on facts rather than fiction. People with a high logical-mathematical intelligence are good with numbers, statistics and data.


  1. Bodily-Kinesthetic

People who are naturally talented dancers or sportspersons have strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. This means that their ability to tackle objects, maintain posture and handle their physical movements is much higher than average. From athletes and dancers to police officers and builders, Gardner credits these professions with kinesthetic intelligence. Being dexterous with coordinated movements, balance and composure is a result of this type of intelligence.


  1. Interpersonal

Empaths and people who are compassionate have strong interpersonal intelligence. They’re able to understand other people’s emotions, feelings and thoughts easily. They also find it easy to connect with someone. When it comes to teamwork, interpersonal intelligence is quite handy as it wills you to collaborate and cooperate with your teammates. People with this intelligence make great team players. They’re especially good as counsellors, therapists and social workers. 


  1. Intrapersonal

If you’re someone who’s introspective and in touch with your feelings, you have intrapersonal intelligence. Understanding yourself and your motivations or intentions is generally associated with this type of intelligence. This helps you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, helping you identify areas of improvement. If you have a strong grasp of who you are, your purpose and emotions, you’ll likely make better decisions for yourself.


  1. Naturalistic

The eighth type of intelligence i.e., naturalistic, was added much later in 1995. It refers to someone’s innate ability to connect with their natural surroundings. It’s about having the intuition to understand nature more closely. People with a naturalistic intelligence are known to be sensitive and ethical. They’re attuned to the needs of the planet and what it needs to survive.

This is a general overview of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences based on his own explanation of the eight types of intelligences. These are ‘abilities’ that are unique to a person and may not be replicated. Multiple intelligences explain that everyone’s smart in their own way rather than crediting logical reasoning as the only measure of intelligence. Even if the theory of multiple intelligences is riddled with criticism, the worldview it offers is quite inclusive and diverse. But, let’s see what the literature suggests as the drawbacks or pitfalls of this theory. 

Criticism Of Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences


Most of us were deeply moved when we watched Amir Khan’s hit film Taare Zameen Par. The movie elaborates on children being skilled at things other than science or mathematics. Aside from crunching numbers, there are multiple avenues they excel at, like painting. It showed us that there’s more to human intelligence than we’re aware of.

Gardner’s theory is widely popular among teachers because it’s a good way to ‘individualize’ teaching or teach broad concepts in multiple ways. However, the theory has been criticized for being too ‘simplistic’ and nothing but ‘useful fiction’. Many researchers claim that there’s a clear lack of empirical evidence to support this theory—a point refuted by Gardner. Although there haven’t been lab experiments to determine the truth behind this theory, Gardner explains that there’s enough empirical evidence to back his data.

Researchers also condense intelligences into ‘attitudes, personalities and styles’. Thus, discrediting Gardner’s work as being too subjective. 

Nevertheless, the theory of multiple intelligences has its advantages from an individual perspective. It shows us how certain situations need to be tailored according to the individual. 

For instance, in an accounting firm, assuming that everyone is skilled at crunching numbers and drawing logical conclusions is a misplaced judgment. Every workplace has a distinct work style, even within teams, you won’t find two similar work styles.

So, even if the theory is contentious, the concept of multiple intelligences can help us understand people in a far more objective light.

Discovering Who You Are


Gardner’s theory can help you understand yourself and identify which type of multiple intelligence you possess. Learning about your strengths and weaknesses is a good way to find a career path or even hobbies that you’ll enjoy. It’s important to be aware of your skills and abilities. 

You may be good at singing or have a good sense of direction. Each of these skills will help you determine various types of intelligence. Asking yourself questions, introspecting and building self-awareness are some ways to discover who you are.

Harappa’s Interpreting Self course will teach you how to answer questions like ‘Who am I?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘What do I stand for?’. If you want to be the best version of yourself, together with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, you can identify your purpose and learn more about yourself.

Determining your values, assessing what gives you joy and thinking about what you’re good at, will boost your confidence. You’ll be more equipped to follow through with your words and take risks. Not only will this help you on a personal level but also help you get along with others professionally. Knowing yourself is the first step to becoming someone others can rely on. Harappa’s self-knowledge course will push you to be honest with yourself and reflect on your life. Start learning today and give yourself the chance to be a highly-skilled and confident professional!

Explore Harappa Diaries to learn more about topics related to the LEAD Habit such as What is Self-Motivation, How to Develop Self-Awareness and Guide to Personal SWOT Analysis to become the best version of yourself.