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Multiple Intelligences

IQ stands for intelligence quotient. Supposedly, it is a score that tells one how “bright” a person is compared to other people. And — also supposedly — the score is an indication of the person’s potential. The average IQ is by definition 100; scores above 100 indicate a higher than average IQ and scores below 100 indicate a lower than average IQ. Half of the population has IQs of between 90 and 110. If an IQ test is supposed to measure a person's intelligence, the question is: What is intelligence? Is it the ability to do well in school? Is it the ability to read well and spell correctly? Or are the following people intelligent?

  • The physician who smokes three packets of cigarettes a day?

  • The Nobel Prize winner whose marriage and personal life are in ruins?

  • The corporate executive who has ingeniously worked his way to the top and also earned a heart attack for his efforts?

  • The brilliant and successful music composer who handled his money so poorly that he was always running from his creditors (incidentally, his name was Mozart)?

The problem is that the term intelligence has never been defined adequately and therefore nobody knows what an IQ test is supposed to measure.

Whether one agrees with the application of IQ tests or not, it is doubtful that there is such a thing as general intelligence. Intelligence is an encompassing term. Many people feel that intelligence includes such attributes as creativity, persistent curiosity, and success. Consider, for example, that James Watson, the discoverer of DNA, has an IQ of about 115 — about the IQ of most college students. He claims that his great success was due to his persistent curiosity, something not measured by IQ tests. IQ tests, however, are poor indicators of many attributes of this nature. Generally, IQ tests seem to measure common skills and abilities, most of which are acquired in school. Thus, in opposition to the idea of a general intelligence, the concept of “multiple intelligences” came into being.

Undoubtedly, the man who stands out from the crowd for formally introducing the idea of multiple intelligences was L.L. Thurstone (1887-1955). Thurstone was a mathematician who had been hired to work in Thomas Edison’s laboratory. Thurstone soon became aware that Edison seemed completely unable to comprehend mathematics. This led Thurstone to conclude that, rather than a single quality called general intelligence, there must be many kinds of intelligence, perhaps each unrelated to the other. Thurstone believed that if a person was intelligent in one area it didn’t necessarily mean that he would be intelligent in another. One of Thurstone’s goals was to isolate social from nonsocial intelligence, academic from nonacademic intelligence, and mechanical from abstract intelligence.

Guilford structure

Based on his factor analysis of the human intellect, J. P. Guilford developed a model of intelligence. Guilford’s structure of the intellect is shown to the right. The figure is shown in three dimensions. Each side of the block represents a major intellectual function. Each function is divided into sub-functions. The total number of interactions possible is 120, since Guildford had isolated 120 different kinds of intelligence.

Probably the best-known theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults. These intelligences are:

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
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