Are There Multiple Intelligences?

Are There Multiple Intelligences?

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory

Though a controversial idea, in recent years, the concept of multiple intelligence theory has been proposed. This is the idea that intelligence manifests itself into a variety of skill sets such as kinesthetic intelligence, naturalistic intelligence, and other skill sets.

Howard Gardner in 1983 first proposed the theory of multiple intelligences in an effort to better understand and analyze intelligence in humans. The basis of Gardner’s concept is that standard IQ tests measure a wide range of abilities such as memory and problem solving. But according to Gardner, these measures do not correlate with one another or at least are weakly connected. For instance, just because one person is skilled in Math does not mean that he or she is more intelligent than a person who learns math with more difficulty. Within this concept is the idea that the person who is struggling to learn Math might be using the wrong approach. Gardner’s argument is based upon three assumptions:

1) A person may best learn through a different approach,

2) A person may excel in a field outside of the field which they struggle within

3) A person may even be looking at and understand a concept or educational process at a fundamentally deeper level. This understanding might appear to be slowness but this appearance can hide the intelligence which could make the person potentially more skilled than the person who seems to be naturally skilled at a particular process.

From these assumptions, Gardner builds a theory which defines intelligence as being divided by eight separate areas of skill and understanding:

• Linguistic
• Musical
• Logical-Mathematical
• Naturalist
• Spatial
• Bodily-Kinesthetic
• Intrapersonal
• Interpersonal

According to Gardner individual possessing strength in particular areas of intelligence is what allows a person to learn more efficiently. For instance, a person displaying a high degree of Linguistic Intelligence would learn most efficiently through reading, writing, and attending lectures. Individuals who are linguistically intelligent are skilled with language whether written or spoken and therefore able to learn through these means more efficiently. 

The theory while extremely popular has met harsh criticism. It should be stated that I do not believe this theory possesses the empirical evidence to support its claims. The most striking feature of criticism I have towards this theory is the fact that the classifications of intelligence seem so broad based that they encompass everything but distinguish nothing. For example, if I were to classify myself within this theory I would have to say that I am Linguistically Intelligent along with Intrapersonal and Naturalistic. These intelligences have affected and improved my life in the sense that I have been able to enterprise on these attributes. As a result of being linguistically intelligent, I have been able to build a business which involves writing website content. Along these lines being Intrapersonal allows me to analyze my own feelings and will hopefully make me a skilled psychologist. Finally, being naturalistically intelligent gives me the ability to be a great gardener. I see these intelligences as skills; I do not perceive them as areas of intellect. In an obvious way, being a good gardener involves learning about horticulture or being introspective seems to be nothing more than learning to be self-critical or to self-analyze. What Gardner is referring to as intellect seems to be more accurately defined as skill. Gardner takes a skill such as sports and renames it kinesthetic intelligence. Again this is a broad view that it makes it meaningless.

The theory is also highly controversial because it lacks study. In a critical review of multiple intelligence theory, Waterhouse (2006) reported that,

“To date there have been no published studies that offer evidence of the validity of the multiple intelligences. In 1994 Sternberg reported finding no empirical studies. In 2000 Allix reported finding no empirical validating studies, [and] In 2004 Sternberg and Grigerenko stated that there were no validating studies for multiple intelligences…” (Waterhouse, 2006)

The most damming evidence against multiple intelligence theory is the fact that Gardner has offered no means to test the theory. In standard IQ tests conclusions about individual abilities can be drawn from the testing process such as the person has the potential to excel at math (White, 2000). Gardner himself admitted there was “little hard evidence for MI theory” (Waterhouse, 2006)

I believe that Multiple Intelligence theory has ego appeal to many people because it allows people to classify themselves as being intelligent in different ways and therefore gives that appearance of equality. Sadly, the facts do not seem to corroborate this belief and in many ways reject it. Multiple intelligence theory needs to be studied in greater depth and needs to show some form of evidence for its existence before I would take it as fact.


Huitt, W. (2002). Intelligence. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.

Human Intelligence. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 14, 2011, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

Waterhouse, L. (2006). Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A critical review. Educational Psychologist, 41(4), Fall 2006, pp. 207–225.

White, S. (2000). Conceptual foundations of IQ testing. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law,6(1), 33–43.

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Triola Vincent. Wed, Mar 10, 2021. Are There Multiple Intelligences? Retrieved from

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