What is Multiple Intelligence Theory?

The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by a psychologist based on testing done regarding the effectiveness of IQ Tests. His research showed that IQ tests are a poor indicator of future success in life. Since IQ testing is primarily concerned with vocabulary, spatial relationships, pattern recognition, and other cognitive tasks, researchers hypothesized on what a complete model of intelligence testing might look like.

According to the theory, there are eight types of intelligences. Each type is partially or completely independent of each other. For instance, though it stands to reason that a highly capable musical performer is likely to have a higher than average IQ, researchers hypothesize that this is not a foregone conclusion.

The following table illustrates the different types of intelligences described in the original research.

Type of Intelligence Definition
Linguistic Intelligence "Word smart"
Logical-mathematical intelligence "Number/Reasoning whiz"
Spatial intelligence "Picture/Blueprint smart"
Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence "Good on his toes"
Musical Intelligence "More Mozart than Einstein"
Interpersonal intelligence "People smart"
Intrapersonal intelligence "Knows thyself"
Naturalist intelligence "Nature lover"

A major criticism of the theory is that it has never been empirically tested. Some critics argue it is not falsifiable. What do you think? Is there a way to test a person on all eight types of intelligence?

A similar theory that has enjoyed much more success holds that there are likely at least two types of intelligence, primarily IQ, the intelligence quotient, and EQ, the emotional-intelligence quotient. Many believe that EQ matters more than IQ in terms of potential business or personal success.

Additionally, there are a number of critiques of IQ tests that apply regardless of which type of intelligence it measures. First, IQ tests are highly subjective in their scoring between cohorts. The tests must be continuously changed to stay relevant. For instance, an early IQ test asked eight-year-olds, "What is Mars?" If you answered "The fourth planet from the sun," you would be wrong, as the correct answer was, "The largest candy maker in the world." The Mars Bar was a common snack food for children, but astronomy was not a common topic of instruction in schools. Additionally, sharing a demographic with the person who wrote the test questions leads to inflated scores, and this has been demonstrated to inflate the scores of white males.

While it leads to interesting research if it is true, there may never be a test that accurately measures different or multiple intelligences. Still, one must recognize that some people who score poorly on IQ tests are profoundly good at other activities. If anything, this shows why it is important to be critical of IQ testing.

Food for thought: Do you know someone with a high level of intelligence in something untraditional? For example, how would you rate the intelligence of a star quarterback? What about someone like Einstein, who did not learn to speak until he was eight or nine years old? Edgar Allen Poe, one of America's finest writers, was profoundly asocial and was afflicted with manic depression. The theory of multiple intelligences supports the idea that these men were profoundly intelligent, even if they did not score highly on traditional IQ tests.

More Information On Multiple Intelligence

  1. An Explanation of Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences (MI)
  2. Handedness and Brain Lateralization