Department of Psychology
Mr. Alex Lui
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
When people hear about intelligence, the first thought that immediately appeared to mind are someone who is good in science, has a higher IQ, can solve arithmetic problems well or those who are really good in calculating and writing. Dr. Gardner, one of the best psychologists has demonstrated through his study that the statement above is unproven. He was the first who introduced the Multiple Intelligences theory to the society (Gardner, 1983). The concept of Gardner's theory partially comes from his experience in working with people who are not supported in physically, even mentally (Gardner). For example, he found some autistic children have an exceptional musical and mathematical talent even though their social skills are disturbed. According to Gardner (1993), intelligence is a problem solving ability to solve difficulties and create products that are valuable in some cultural settings. Gardner himself has identified nine different types of intelligence that potentially owned by each individual, which are consist of linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, musical-rhythmic intelligence, bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence, spatial intelligence, naturalist intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and existential intelligence. It means if there is nobody has the exact same level of intelligence, not even the twins. Some people may only master in certain area and some people might master in variety of areas, without any exceptions. That is what he called as Multiple Intelligences. The idea of this theory comes from the way Gardner defines intelligence as an ability to create some effective solutions and products that are valuable in at least more than one cultural (Gardner, 1998). By stating this statement, Gardner expands the meaning of intelligence by including various aspects outside the normal academic fields which he believes will be useful for people in the culture where they live in. Gardner and his colleagues did a survey of their theory research by collecting some information from a wide range of sources, included descriptions of special populations (Gardner, 1983). The populations could be included autistic children, mental disability people, normal savants, and people from different kinds of work or different cultures. The result states that Intelligence behaviour doesn’t derive from a unity cell, but they are generated from variety of different cell types of brain, which is allowing the individual to solve problems that are valuable in cultural settings (Gardner). Based on the result, Gardner (1998) used some criteria to classify these types of intelligences, included an ability that can be increased through the lifetime become an independent skill. Another scientist, David Perkins (1995) also did a research to learn about intelligence and the way to increase IQ development by analyzed some educational theories and approaches to the education which his analysis strongly supports Gardner’s theory. Gardner (1998) actually has strong evidence to support his theory. He prefers to rely on case studies and real life situations instead of using written test. The most convincing study that Gardner figured out is the intelligence of stroke victims. When we find someone who suffers from stroke, it is the fact if they would lose their physical ability, but they still can accomplish their task. It explains that the idea of intelligence each controlled separately. Another study found by Gardner (1983) is, there are some children who are talented in different areas, which is means if they have different types of intelligence. Some were good in musical and logic, and yet another child might be good in naturalist and interpersonal skills. The same with personalities, Gardner realized if everyone has different types of intelligence. These studies strongly show that Multiple Intelligences Theory is Multifaceted (Gardner, 1998). The further research has figured out a more influential method which is known as Neuroimaging. It has lightened the scientists to determine the activity of the brain directly through the changes in blood flow in the brain (Posner, 2004). It shows the researchers that there are different parts of the brain would be working while doing mathematical and auditory task. It strongly proves that different intelligences are controlled by different parts of the brain. However, some claim that Gardner’s theory doesn’t have strong evidence enough to support it (Waterhouse, 2006). One of them argued that the theory was not supported by traditional intelligence testing. Some psychologists said if the nine characteristics were not related to the idea of intelligence (Willingham, 2004). While others say that the evidence does exist (Gardner & Moran, 2006). Besides that, there are also various criticisms about the theory. John White (1997, as cited in Smith, 2008) who has argued that there are some significant problems around the criteria of the theory, including individual criteria which have raised some questions that the answer still can’t be found by him in Gardner’s writing. The point is most of the criticisms were devoted to the way he presented it. Because Garner did not use such of that traditional test, his definition seems not to be accepted. Meanwhile, because Intelligence is a common thing that does not have a clear definition which is means can be measured in many ways, therefore Gardner’s theory should not be avoided just because he chose a non-traditional way to demonstrate his theory. On the other side, there are arguments between the teachers who have experienced in applying the theory as their teaching method. Some feel it works well. They feel that the theory would be helpful for the students because it trains them to think in many ways and increases their thinking ability (Ormrod, 2006). Otherwise, some feel the theory would not work well for the students because it will narrow their development. All students are considered to have an equal level of intelligence, so no one is assumed as more gifted or cleverer than another (Theory of multiple intelligences, 2008). Besides that, there is another theory which is suggested as better alternatives than Gardner’s. It is known as Triarchic theory of intelligence, which is found by Robert Sternberg (1997). Some teachers reported that most of the students who were not doing well in school, have reached a higher level of success in their working. These observations have supported Stenberg in doing his research (Stenberg, 1988). Same with Gardner’s theory, he found that everyone has a different type and level of intelligence. However, Stenberg (1997) is more focus on his three components, which are consist of practical, experiential, and componential intelligence, in purpose to help the individual to increase their ability in the type of intelligence which they chose to do. He believes if those intelligences abilities can be increased by learning, study, and practice. Many people always assume that intelligence is what can be measured from science. According to research done by Gardner, it is wrong. Sometimes, a child might be good in musical, but not too good in logic. In that case, he is not categorized as a fool. However, his musical intelligence is higher than his logical. According to Gardner (1983), human beings have several kinds of intelligence and everyone has a distinctive intelligence that can be increased as their independent skill. Each type of intelligence is the same. They are feasible and valuable (Gardner).
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books. Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: The theory in practice. New York: Basic Books. Gardner, H. (1998). Are there additional intelligences? The case for naturalist, spiritual, and existential intelligences. In J. Kane (Ed.), Education, information, and transformation (pp. 111-131). Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/mitheory.shtml Gardner, H. (1998). A multiplicity of intelligences. Scientific American, 9, 19-23. Gardner, H. (2004). Audiences for the theory of multiple intelligences. Teachers College Record, 106, 212–220. Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Retrieved from http://www.collegequarterly.ca/2011-vol14-num02-spring/mcfarlane.html Gardner, H., & Moran, S. (2006). The science in multiple intelligences: A response to Lynn Waterhouse. Educational Psychologist, 41, 227–232. Perkins, D. (1995). Theories of intelligence. Retrieved from http://pzweb.harvard.edu/PIs/DP.htm Posner, M. (2004). Neural systems and individual differences. Teachers College Record, 106, 24-30. Smith, Mark K. ( 2008). Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences. The encyclopaedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm Sternberg, Robert J. (1997). Theories of intelligence. Retrieved from http://otec.uoregon.edu/intelligence.htm Waterhouse, L. (2006).Multiple intelligences, the Mozart effect, and emotional intelligence: A critical review. Educational Psychologist, 41, 207–225. `White, J. (1997). Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences and education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm Willingham, D. (2004). Reframing the mind: Howard Gardner became a hero among educators simply by redefining talents as “intelligences”. Education Next, 4(3), 18-24.