What is intelligence?
Intelligence is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can be defined in various ways. Some common definitions include the ability to acquire and apply knowledge, the capacity for reasoning and problem-solving, the skill of adapting to different situations and environments, and the potential for creativity and innovation.
Intelligence is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and it can be measured by different methods and tests. Intelligence is not a fixed or static trait, but rather a dynamic and evolving one that can be enhanced or impaired by various factors throughout one’s life.
When we think of intelligence, we often think of academic skills like math, logic, or language. But these are not the only ways that humans can be smart. In fact, psychologists have identified several different types of intelligence that humans exhibit, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
Types of intelligence
One of the earliest and most influential theories of multiple intelligences was proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983. He suggested that there are eight types of intelligence, each with its own neurological basis and developmental trajectory. These are:
This is the ability to use words effectively, both in speaking and writing. People with high linguistic intelligence are good at expressing themselves, learning languages, and remembering verbal information. They may enjoy reading, writing, storytelling, or word games.
This is the ability to reason logically, solve problems, and understand abstract concepts. People with high logical-mathematical intelligence are good at math, science, logic puzzles, and chess. They may enjoy finding patterns, analyzing data, or experimenting with new ideas.
This is the ability to visualize and manipulate objects in three-dimensional space. People with high spatial intelligence are good at drawing, painting, sculpting, navigating, or playing video games. They may enjoy maps, diagrams, models, or photography.
This is the ability to use one’s body skillfully and coordinate physical movements. People with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are good at sports, dancing, acting, or crafts. They may enjoy physical activities, hands-on learning, or expressing themselves through movement.
This is the ability to perceive, create, and appreciate music. People with high musical intelligence are good at singing, playing instruments, composing songs, or recognizing musical patterns. They may enjoy listening to music, making music, or attending concerts.
This is the ability to understand and interact with other people. People with high interpersonal intelligence are good at communicating, empathizing, cooperating, and leading. They may enjoy socializing, working in groups, or helping others.
This is the ability to understand and regulate oneself. People with high intrapersonal intelligence are good at self-awareness, self-motivation, self-control, and self-reflection. They may enjoy meditating, journaling, or pursuing personal goals.
This is the ability to recognize and appreciate the natural world. People with high naturalistic intelligence are good at identifying plants, animals, rocks, or weather patterns. They may enjoy gardening, hiking, camping, or wildlife watching.
Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has been influential in education and other fields. It has helped to shift the focus from a single measure of intelligence, such as IQ, to a broader understanding of human intelligence. The theory also suggests that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and that we should all be valued for our unique intelligences.
Another influential theory of multiple intelligences was proposed by Robert Sternberg in 1985. He suggested that there are three types of intelligence, each with its own cognitive processes and practical implications. These are:
- Analytical intelligence: the ability to analyze information, solve problems, and evaluate arguments.
- Creative intelligence: the ability to generate novel ideas, products, or solutions.
- Practical intelligence: the ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world situations.
Sternberg’s theory has been supported by empirical evidence, such as his own research on successful intelligence. He argued that successful people are those who can balance and integrate their analytical, creative, and practical abilities according to the demands of the situation. However, his theory has also been criticized for being too narrow and ignoring other aspects of intelligence, such as emotional or social intelligence.
A third influential theory of multiple intelligences was proposed by Daniel Goleman in 1995. He suggested that there are two types of intelligence, each with its own neurological basis and developmental trajectory. These are:
- Cognitive intelligence: the ability to process information, reason logically, and learn from experience.
- Emotional intelligence: the ability to perceive, understand, express, and regulate emotions.
Goleman’s theory has been popularized by his best-selling books on emotional intelligence. He claimed that emotional intelligence is more important than cognitive intelligence for success in life, as it affects one’s self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. However, his theory has also been criticized for being too vague and subjective, lacking scientific rigor, and overstating the importance of emotional intelligence.
The important thing to remember is that everyone has different types of intelligence and different levels of each type. No one is good at everything or bad at everything. We all have our own unique combination of intelligences that make us who we are.