Multiple Intelligences: Historical Introduction III

Multiple Intelligences: Historical Introduction III

Intelligence is a topic that fascinates both professionals and non-professionals. Eternal debates are generated around its definition in international conferences and in cafeteria talks. But undoubtedly, an issue that would generate even more debate is that of Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences.

In the previous articles "Multiple Intelligences: Historical Introduction I" and "Multiple Intelligences: Historical Introduction II", the emergence of the scientific study of intelligence has been addressed. In this way, we have gradually deepened the concept of intelligence to create a contextual framework to better understand the new theories.

Despite this, intelligence or intelligences (as we will see later) remains a topic of debate within the field of psychology. However the radical change that would suppose Howard Gardner and his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, left no one indifferent. But before we delve fully into the subject, we will see what the curious Flynn effect is all about.


  • 1 Flynn Effect
  • 2 The Flynn Effect paradox
  • 3 Entering the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Flynn Effect

James R. Flynn (born 1934) made a curious and striking finding, the results in the tests of intellectual coefficients improved since the early twentieth century. Specifically, the scores increased 0.3 points per decade. In 2012 Flynn said: "To my surprise, the increase continues in the 21st century".

Joe Rodgers (1999) says that "The increase appears systematically year after year. Children born in 1989 respond somewhat better than those born in 1988". This effect, baptized as Flynn Effect, implies that a child would get 10 points more than his parents at the same age.

Flynn and Weiss (2007) analyzed this effect with the WISC children's scale. At first it was thought that this improvement would be related to the crystallized intelligence Cultural type However, it was found that the increase occurred in two subtests focused on assessing the ability of abstract reasoning.

The Flynn Effect paradox

The paradox of the Flynn effect is that these tests were designed to establish a nonverbal result independent of culture. Psychology calls it fluid intelligence, that is, the innate ability we have to solve problems that we are not familiar with.

But the Flynn effect shows something different and lets see that something in the environment that is influencing aspects of intelligence that in principle are foreign to culture.

What explanation do they give to this "something of the environment" that influences us? Fox and Mitchum (2014) venture that it can be about development of greater flexibility in our way of perceiving the objects that surround us. Some experts, Flynn among them, say that our minds have actually become more modern.

Flynn theorizes that the industrial revolution was a key element in this change. The emergence of new professions such as engineers, electricians, industrial architects ... demanded mastery of abstract principles.

At the same time education also changed and all this caused a positive feedback loop between our mind and a culture based on technique. Despite this theory, it is a phenomenon that is still being studied today and to which they have not yet found a complete explanation.

On the other hand, at the base of the Flynn effect could be our adaptability. Since the industrial revolution the world changes at dizzying speeds and our brain has to adapt. Thus, the environment evolves our brain and it creates our environment. In this way, we must adapt to the continuous changes that we ourselves are creating.

Entering the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner it was unmarked from the prevailing theories about intelligence and took a radical turn. His conception of intelligence revolves around the consideration of the mind as a set of skills needed to solve problems and to develop important products and strategies at a cultural level or in a given community.

As Gardner himself (1995) says: "From creating the end of a story to anticipating a checkmate movement in chess, going through patching a quilt. Products range from scientific theories to musical compositions, through successful political campaigns.".

The author defends that there is a number of more or less autonomous human intelligences. Gardner baby of the neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, educational psychology, etc. He claims that the fact of having a number of relatively independent faculties better explains human behavior than the traditional defending theories of a single IC.

Biology and environment

Intelligence is about the result of the interaction between environmental and biological factors, so it is susceptible to be educated and developed. This is why the idea was conceived for the educational field, and in this way, to be able to apply it.

"My theory liked a few psychologists, it displeased a few more and most ignored it ... there was another audience with a genuine interest in my ideas: the public of education professionals."


According to Gardner (1999), which ensures that intelligence cannot be quantifiable through test: "Until now, the word intelligence has basically been limited to linguistic and logical abilities, although the human being can process elements as diverse as the contents of space, music or the own and other people's psyche".

Gardner ensures that the traditional concept of intelligence is biased by culture and that its measurement depends on measuring instruments developed with the sole objective of satisfying specific purposes.

Gardner (1999): "Intelligence, as a construct to be defined and as a capacity to measure, has ceased to be the property of a specific group of specialists who contemplate it from a limited psychometric perspective.". So that, "tests in general, and intelligence tests in particular, are intrinsically conservative instruments that are at the service of the system".

From Gardner's perspective, intelligence, or rather at this point, intelligences are characterized by two aspects. On the one hand as problem solving capabilities and on the other as the capacities to produce products that are of great importance in a specific cultural context. These two aspects vary greatly from one culture to another or within it.

Neither better nor worse, different

Gardner says that to succeed in music or sports or mathematics or business…. we use a different kind of intelligence, which is neither better nor worse, only different.

In 2001 he described intelligence as "a bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural framework to solve problems or create products that have value for a culture".

Intelligences would be neural potentials that would be activated based on the values ​​of a culture, of the available opportunities, of the decisions taken by each person, their family, their teachers and others (Pérez and Beltrán, 2006).

Gardner (1983) stated that "there is persuasive evidence about the existence of several relatively autonomous human intellectual competences". This implies the existence of different intelligences independent of each other. Each of them would be located differently in the brain and would have its own characteristics as well as its own development history.

Although the intelligences are independent of each other, they would act in a coordinated manner. Two ideas are central to the theory of Multiple Intelligences: all people possess all intelligences Y we all have different intelligence profiles.

Intelligence Criteria

For Gardner, every intelligence must meet eight bio-psychological criteria (1983):

  1. Possibility of being isolated as a result of an injury or brain damage.
  2. Presence of people who show a very different profile with respect to the average.
  3. Existence of basic mechanisms of information processing involved in it.
  4. History of a specific evolutionary development, identifiable in ontogenic terms.
  5. History of a specific evolutionary development, in phylogenetic terms.
  6. Support of findings from experimental psychology.
  7. Support of the contributions of the psychometric tradition.
  8. Possibility of coding in a symbolic system, especially at work or school.

Types of Intelligence

Gardner proposed seven initial intelligences in 1983, which in 1999 would increase to 11, but which would eventually remain at 8. Proposed intelligences:

  1. Linguistics (1983)
  2. Musical (1983)
  3. Logic-Mathematics (1983)
  4. Space (1983)
  5. Kinetic-Corporal (1983)
  6. Intrapersonal (1983)
  7. Interpersonal (1983)
  8. Naturalist (1983)
  9. Existential (1999, not comparable to the previous ones)
  10. Spiritual (1999, not comparable to the previous ones)
  11. Moral (1999, rejected)

What does each Intelligence consist of

This article is the third in a series of articles in which we will delve deeper into the issue of Multiple Intelligences, so we will see in detail and in detail what each of them consists of. Even so, by way of summary and very briefly we will introduce what each one implies.

  1. Mathematical logician: This intelligence addresses the sensitivity and ability to discern logical or numerical patterns. As well as the competition to handle long chains of reasoning.
  2. Verbal-linguistic: Sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms and meaning of the words. Sensitivity to the different functions of language.
  3. Musical: Competition to produce and appreciate rhythm, intonation and timbre. Appreciation of the forms of musical expressiveness.
  4. Space: Capabilities to accurately perceive the viso-spatial world and to make transformations on someone's initial perceptions.
  5. Body-kinetic: Skills to control one's own body movements and to handle objects in a skilled manner.
  6. Interpersonal: Capacities to discern and respond appropriately to the customs, temperaments, motivations and desires of others.
  7. Intrapersonal: Access to one's feelings and ability to discriminate between them and sustain a guide to behavior. Know your own strengths and weaknesses, desires and intelligences.
  8. Naturalist: Skills to recognize and categorize objects and processes of nature.


Gardner (1999) grouped these intelligences in three categories:

  1. Objective intelligences related to the characters, composition and functions of the objects on which they fall: viso-spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinetic and naturalistic.
  2. Intelligences that do not depend on the physical world but on the intellectual and they help us to detect the production of words and the articulation of sounds. It is formed by abstract intelligences: linguistic and musical.
  3. Intelligences related to the person as agent agent of impressions, sensations, feelings, ideas and creations: intrapersonal and interpersonal.


  • Flynn, J.R. (2007) What is intelligence? Beyond the Flynn effect. New York:
    Cambridge University Press.
  • Fox, M. C. and Mitchum, A. L. (2014) Confirming the cognition of rising scores: Fox
    and Mitchum. PLoS One, 9 (5).
  • Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York:
    Basic Books
  • Gardner, H. (1995). Reflections on multiple intelligences. Phi Delta Kappan, 77 (3),
  • Gardner, H. (1999). The disciplined mind: What all students should understand. New
    York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
  • Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st Century.
    New York, NY: Basic Books.
  • Gardner, H. (2001). Multiple intelligence. The New York Times
  • Pérez, L. and Beltrán, J. (2006). Two decades of multiple intelligences: implications for
    The psychology of education. Roles of the Psychologist, 27 (3), 147-164.
  • Rodgers, J. (1999): A critique of the Flynn effect: Massive IQ gains, methodological
    artifacts, or both? Intelligence, 26 (4): 337-356.
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