What does it mean when someone calls you smart or intelligent? According to developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, it could mean one of eight things.
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Currently I think there are eight intelligences that I’m very confident about and a few more that I’ve bene thinking about. I’ll share that with our audience. The first two intelligences are the ones which IQ tests and other kind of standardized tests valorize and as long as we know there are only two out of eight it’s perfectly fine to look at them. Linguistic intelligence is how well you’re able to use language. It’s a kind of skill that poets have, other kinds of writers, journalists tend to have linguistic intelligence, orators. The second intelligence is logical mathematical intelligence. As the name implies logicians, mathematicians, scientists have that kind of intelligence. They’re able to do mathematical proofs. They’re able to do scientific reasoning and experimentation. And it’s great to have language and logical intelligence because most tests really focus on that. And if you do well in those tests as long as you stay in school you think you’re smart. But if you ever walk out into Broadway or the highway or into the woods or into a farm you then find out that other intelligences are at least this important. So the third intelligence is musical intelligence and that’s the capacity to appreciate different kinds of musics, to produce the music by voice or by an instrument or to conduct music.
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And people say well music is a talent. It’s not an intelligence. And I say well why if you’re good with words is that an intelligence but if you’re good with tones and rhythms and timbres nobody’s ever given me a good answer which is why it makes sense to talk about musical intelligence. And at certain cultures over history musical intelligence has been very important. The fourth intelligence is spatial intelligence. That’s the intelligence which allows us to handle and work in space that’s close by. A chess player would have spatial intelligence. A surgeon would have spatial intelligence. But there’s another variety of spatial intelligence which we use for a much broader navigation. That’s what an airplane pilot or a sea captain would have. How do you find your way around large territory and large space. Similarly with the fifth intelligence bodily kinesthetic intelligence it comes in two flavors. One flavor is the ability to use your whole body to solve problems or to make things. And athletes and dancers would have that kind of bodily kinesthetic intelligence. But another variety is being able to use your hands or other parts of your body to solve problems or make things. A craft person would have bodily kinesthetic intelligence even if they weren’t particularly a good athlete or dancer.
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First published in 1983 and now available with a new introduction by the author, Gardner’s trailblazing book revolutionized the worlds of education and psychology by positing that rather than a single type of intelligence, we have several–most of which are neglected by standard testing and educational methods.