The Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences model

The Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences model

The intelligence study It has many aspects; One of them is the one that seeks to describe the structure of this psychological attribute, which is primarily responsible for individual differences in cognitive performance. From the works of the pioneers F. J. Galton, A. Binet, Ch. Spearman or L. L. Thurstone, a series of models and theories have been developed that have revolved around a dichotomy: intelligence was considered to have a unitary structure or a multiple structure was proposed. Throughout the century this debate has been open, and only recently there seems to be an approach between the two positions.


  • 1 The concept of Intelligence
  • 2 The Multiple Intelligences model of H. Gardner
  • 3 Famous people and types of intelligence
  • 4 Individual differences of human intelligence
  • 5 Multiple Intelligences: Psychologists vs. Educators

The concept of Intelligence

This approach proposes to combine the idea of ​​a complex intelligence, organized hierarchically, diversified in the primary levels of the same and with a single capacity in the upper level known as general intelligence or g factor"This proposal, systematized by JB Carroll in 1993, seems to have satisfied most modern researchers and has received almost unanimous support from specialists. But despite this agreement there are still alternative models; one of these models that continues to defend a multiple structure of intelligence is that of Howard Gardner and is called Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI).

This author does not agree with a model that considers intelligence hierarchically and unitarily, nor with the implications of this model in the field of intelligence measurement, especially with IC tests. The theory of Multiple Intelligences was proposed in 1983 and in recent years has been gaining relevance, especially in education and school. In this article we want to describe this theory, its strengths and weaknesses in the framework of modern intelligence psychology.

H. Gardner's Multiple Intelligences model

Howard Gardner has proposed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MI) according to which the human cognitive abilities are eight:

  • the linguistics
  • the logical-mathematical
  • body-kinesthetic
  • the musical
  • the space
  • the interpersonal
  • the intrapersonal
  • the naturalist

These intelligences were delimited from the study of a variety of cognitive abilities or skills identified in populations of particular subjects: talented individuals, sequelae of brain lesions, evolutionary and cross-cultural observations. In order for the skills observed to receive the qualification of intelligences, they must meet the criteria set forth above. In 1983 he proposed seven intelligences that we summarize below:

Linguistic intelligence

It is used in the reading of books, in the writing of texts, and in the understanding of words and the use of everyday language. This intelligence is observed in poets and writers, but also in speakers and broadcasters in the media.

Logical-mathematical intelligence

Used in solving mathematical problems, in the contrast of a balance or bank account and in a multitude of tasks that require the use of inferential or propositional logic. It is the own of the scientists.

Musical intelligence

It is used when singing a song, composing a sonata, playing a musical instrument, or appreciating the beauty and structure of a musical composition. Naturally it is observed in composers and musicians in general.

Spatial intelligence

It is used in the realization of displacements through a city or building, in understanding a map, orienting oneself, imagining the arrangement of furniture in a given space or in predicting the trajectory of a mobile object. It is the same of aviation pilots, explorers or sculptors.

Kinesthetic-body intelligence

It is used in the execution of sports, dances and in general in those activities where body control is essential to obtain a good performance. Own dancers, gymnasts or pampering.

Interpersonal intelligence

It is involved in the relationship with other people, to understand their motives, desires, emotions and behaviors. It is the ability to understand and understand the moods of others, the motivations or psychological states of others. It refers to a cognitive ability to understand the moods of others, not the emotional response caused by this understanding and we classically call empathy. It is highly developed in teachers, vendors or therapists.

Intrapersonal intelligence

It is the ability to access one's own feelings, one's emotions and use them to guide the behavior and behavior of the same subject. It refers to a cognitive ability to understand one's moods. It is used to understand ourselves, our desires, motives and emotions. It also plays a decisive role in personal changes associated with improvements or adaptations to vital events. It should be found in monks, religious and yogis.

Naturalist intelligence

It is the ability to distinguish, classify and use environmental elements, objects, animals or plants. Both urban and suburban or rural environment. It includes the skills of observation, experimentation, reflection and questioning of our environment.


We could describe in more detail each of these intelligences but it is more appropriate to follow the approach of Gardner himself who illustrates them through examples of characters who have stood out for possessing one of them on an extraordinary level.

Famous people and types of intelligence

These examples coincide with personalities from the arts, science or politics and directly illustrate the meaning that Gardner gives to each of these intelligences. We would find a model of linguistic intelligence in writers such as J. L. Borges or Pablo Neruda, from the logical-mathematical intelligence in A. Einstein or Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize in Chemistry), of the musical in L. Bernstein or Stravinsky, of the kinesthetic-bodily in Nureyev, of the interpersonal in S. Freud and of the intrapersonal in M. Gandhi or Teresa of Calcutta

In the words of H. Gardner himself: "The MI theory represents an effort to broadly base the concept of intelligence on the widest possible current scientific knowledge, aims to offer a set of tools to educators with which to help the development of individual potentialities, and I believe that properly applied can help all individuals reach their full potential in both professional and private life "(Gardner, 1998). In fact, this theory includes, that the intelligences available to human individuals are not necessarily dependent on each other, moreover: these intelligences can operate in isolation according to the demands of the tasks.

Individual differences of human intelligence

Each person possesses in different quantity or grade each one of these intelligences, but the way in which they are combined or mixed generates multiple individualized forms of intelligent behavior, something similar to what happens with the combination of facial features that give rise to individual faces or faces. Gardner proposes that each person stabilizes ways of mixing these intelligences by acquiring a very personal idiosyncrasy (something like a personality in the cognitive sphere). This fact is very evident in the school environment, where, despite the willingness to amalgamate educational techniques in uniform systems, students seem to resist this educational action by showing their individuality daily in the ways of learning. In addition, Gardner insists, these "personal styles or preferences" seem very stable, as if they had been set in early periods of child development, being, therefore, very resistant to change. Own Gardner He says: "Neither monozygotic twins (not even clones) have the same amalgam of intelligences. Individuals develop, from their unique experiences, idiosyncratic intelligence profiles, typical of each person" (Gardner, 1998).

It is important to point out that the intelligences proposed by Gardner have not been identified from factor studies, as has been the case with Thurstone or Guilford's proposals. Gardner he proposes his intelligences from the convergence of mental operations, from the union of empirical evidence from neurology, cognitive science, of different processes of development of skills in childhood and in exceptional subjects and also in mentally handicapped. Thus, Gardner's approaches and methods are more complex and comprehensive than those of traditional intelligence models and that is why we should call them "rational" models even though he calls them empirical, since his model has not been contrasted. empirically, in a strict sense, since it does not have rigorous measurement systems of these intelligences and, therefore, its predictions cannot be contrasted, at least in the field of quantitative research, which in this field is of great importance.

Multiple Intelligences: Psychologists vs. Educators

Interestingly, numerous psychologists have criticized this proposal of Gardner, and, on the other hand, many educators consider it very appropriate. Possibly the MI theory coincides with many observations and daily intuitions of educators; the observation that children show that they are smart and efficient in many different ways and that it is difficult to conclude that these ways of being intelligent are due to a single intelligence common to any type of task. Gardner's ideas have borne fruit in the United States, in such a way that schools, educational projects and even school curricula based on this theory have been created and many of them have been successful, since they have motivated students to develop skills specific and give a particular meaning to their intellectual development.

One of the aspects that derive from the actuality of the MI theory is the need to distinguish between intelligence understood as aptitude or mental capacity and intelligence understood as skill or ability. It is very common to use these terms as if they were synonyms but they refer to different concepts and this distinction is very important.

In a very interesting book, Creative Minds (Gardner, 1993) analyzes the biographies of illustrious characters attending to the argument of being magnificent examples of these types of intelligences applied to artistic or scientific creativity. Gardner was asked to estimate the probable IQ that these characters would have and said that none of them would get a score below 120 IQ, which means that these characters would be above 90% of the rest of the population in terms of Your general cognitive ability is concerned.

One of the conclusions we can draw from Gardner's proposal is the importance of interindividual variability in cognitive performance. Where there is a set of individuals facing specific tasks we can see the individual personality emerge in the form of differences in the ways of reacting, acting, solving tasks, and, more importantly, this variability is functionally adaptive, not a simple accident of individual reality.

In a recent interview Gardner recommended: "address the individual differences of children in schools and try to individualize assessments and instructional methods"He also insisted on not labeling children according to their preferences or dispositions. According to him, intelligences are categories to distinguish differences in forms of mental representations, but they are not good categories to identify how they are (or how they are not) persons.

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