Multiple Intelligence, pt 1

Theories of intelligence abound and new ones are introduced regularly. With advances in neuroscience, genetics and technologies, new insights are uncovered on a weekly basis. New conceptions of intelligence and ways of measuring intelligence can also be expected as we search for better ways to find those that have more of it and predict future success at various endeavors.

Intelligence is considered a general unified concept, largely related to cognitive ability, general mental ability to reason, think, understand and remember that draws upon the powers of learning, memory, perception and deciding. It is generally viewed as the property of an individual; however, it has been argued as being distributed (Pea, 1993; Bowers, 1995). Plato, Kant, Leibnitz, Wundt, May and others believed that intelligence includes aspects of knowing and thinking (cognition), valuing and emotion (affection) and volition and ethics (conation) (Johnston, 1994). In the West, intelligence has become what IQ tests measured, which privileges mathematical and verbal ability (Sternberg, 1990). It is increasing being recognized as consisting of various related but semi-independent functions that vary according to innate, inherited and acquired characteristics.

One of the most influential theories of intelligence to emerge in the later part of the twentieth century is Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (1983). He originally identified seven distinct intelligences: verbal, visual, mathematical, musical, bodily, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. He has since added an eighth, naturalist, and considered other candidates such as social, emotional, existential, spiritual and moral intelligences (1998, 1999).

Of the new types of intelligences explored since the introduction of Gardener’s theory, social and emotional intelligences have gained the most attention and are regarded by most as essential components of a holistic education. Social intelligence is the ability to relate to others effectively with friendliness, openness and supportiveness (Riggio, 1986). Emotional intelligence refers “to a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act” (Goleman, 1995, p. 289) and has five domains: 1) self-awareness, 2) managing emotions, 3) motivating oneself, 4) empathy and 5) handling relationships (Salovey and Mayer, 1990).

Gardener considers social and emotional intelligences as related to his intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences, but feels they go beyond in ways his theory would not support (1999). Gardener’s interpersonal intelligence reflects the ability to recognize the intentions, feelings and motivations of others and his intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to understand oneself and use that information to regulate one’s own life.

Spiritual intelligence, which addresses meaning, motivation, vision and value, places our actions and lives in meaning-giving contexts and assesses which paths are more meaningful (Emmons, 2000; Zohar, 2000; Zohar & Marshall, 2001). Zohar & Marshall identify twelve qualities or principles of spiritual intelligence: self-awareness, spontaneity, being vision and value led, holism, compassion, celebration of diversity, field independence, humility, tendency to ask why, ability to reframe, positive use of adversity and sense of vocation.  Spiritual intelligence includes the capacity for transcendence, heightened consciousness, sanctification, spiritual problem-solving and virtuous behavior (Emmons, 2000).


About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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