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WHAT TO READ FOR
The following prereading questions may help you anticipate key
in the discussion of Howard Gardner’s “A Rounded Version: The
Multiple Intelligences.” Keeping them in mind during your first
the selection should help focus your attention.
â?¢ What constitutes an intelligence, according to Gardner?
â?¢ What is the most compelling evidence for the theory of multiple ..
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
A Rounded Version: The Theory
of Multiple Intelligences
Coauthored by joseph Walters
Two eleven-year-old children are taking a test of “intelligence.”
They sit at their desks laboring over the meanings of different words,
the interpretation of graphs, and the solutions to arithmetic problems. They record their answers by filling in small circles on a single
piece of paper. Later these completed answer sheets are scored objectively: the number of right answers is converted into a standardized
score that compares the individual child with a population of children of similar age.
The teachers of these children review the different scores. They 2
notice that one of the children has performed at a superior level; on all
sections of the test, she answered more questions correctly than did
her peers. In fact, her score is similar to that of children three to four
years older. The other child’s performance is average-his scores
reflect those of other children his age.
A subtle change in expectations surrounds the review of these test 3
scores. Teachers begin to expect the first child to do quite well during
her formal schooling, whereas the second should have only moderate
success. Indeed these predictions come true. In other words, the test
taken by the eleven-year-olds serves as a reliable predictor of their
later performance in school.
How does this happen? One explanation involves our free use of 4
the word “intelligence”: the child with the greater “intelligence” has
the ability to solve problems, to find the answers to specific questions,
and to learn new material quickly and efficiently. These skills in turn
play a central role in school success. In this view, “intelligence” is a
singular faculty that is brought to bear in any problem-solving situation. Since schooling deals largely with solving problems of various
sorts, predicting this capacity in young children predicts their future
success in school.
“Intelligence,” from this point of view, is a general ability that is s
found in varying degrees in all individuals. It is the key to success in
solving problems. This ability can be measured reliably with standardized pencil-and-paper tests that, in turn, predict future success
What happens after school is completed? Consider the two indi- 6
viduals in the example. Looking further down the road, we find that
the “average” student has become a highly successful mechanical
engineer who has risen to a position of prominence in both the professional community of engineers as well as in civic groups in his
community. His success is no fluke-he is considered by all to be a
talented individual. The “superior” student, on the other hand, has
had little success in her Â·chosen career as a writer; after repeated rejections by publishers, she has taken up a middle management position
in a bank. While certainly not a “failure,” she is considered by her
peers to be quite “ordinary” in her adult accomplishments. So what
This fabricated example is based on the facts of intelligence testing. IQ tests predict school performance with considerable accuracy,
but they are only an indifferent predictor of performance in a profession after formal schooling. 1 Furthermore, even as IQ tests measure
only logical or logical-linguistic capacities, in this society we are nearly
“brain-washed” to restrict the notion of intelligence to the capacities
used in solving logical and linguistic problems.
To introduce an alternative point of view, undertake the following “thought experiment.” Suspend the usual judgment of what
constitutes intelligence and let your thoughts run freely over the
capabilities of humans-perhaps those that would be picked out
by the proverbial Martian visitor. In this exercise, you are drawn to
the brilliant chess player, the world-class violinist, and the champion athlete; such outstanding performers deserve special consideration. Under this experiment, a quite different view of intelligence
emerges. Are the chess player, violinist, and athlete “intelligent” in
these pursuits? If they are, then why do our tests of “intelligence”
fail to identify them? If they are not “intelligent,” what allows them
to achieve such astounding feats? In general, why does the contemporary construct “intelligence” fail to explain large areas of human
In this chapter we approach these problems through the theory
of multiple intelligences (MI). As the name indicates, we believe that
human cognitive competence is better described in terms of a set of
abilities, talents, or mental skills, which we call “intelligences.” All
normal individuals possess each of these skills to some extent; individuals differ in the degree of skill and in the nature of their combination. We believe this theory of intelligence may be more humane
and more veridicatl than alternative views of intelligence and that it
jencks, C. (1972). Inequality. New York: Basic Books. [Gardner’s note]
veridical Telling the truth.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
re adequately reflects the data of human “intelligent” behavior.
a theory has important educational implications, including
ones for curriculum development.
What Constitutes an Intelligence?
The question of the optimal definition of intelligence looms
large in our inquiry. Indeed, it is at the level of this definition that
the theory of multiple intelligences diverges from traditional points
of viev.Â· In a traditional view, intelligence is defined operationally as
the ability to answer items on tests of intelligence. The inference
from the test scores to some underlying ability is supported by statistical techniques that compare responses of subjects at different
ages; the apparent correlation of these test scores across ages and
across different tests corroborates the notion that the general faculty
of intelligence, g, does not change much with age or with training or
experience. It is an inborn attribute or faculty of the individual.
Multiple intelligences theory, on the other hand, pluralizes the
traditional concept. An intelligence entails the ability to solve problems or fashion products that are of consequence in a particular cultural setting or community. The problem-solving skill allows one to
approach a situation in which a goal is to be obtained and to locate
the appropriate route to that goal. The creation of a cultural product
is crucial to such functions as capturing and transmitting knowledge
or expressing one’s views or feelings. The problems to be solved
range from creating an end for a story to anticipating a mating move
in chess to repairing a quilt. Products range from scientific theories
to musical compositions to successful political campaigns.
MI theory is framed in light of the biological origins of each
problem-solving skill. Only those skills that are universal to the
human species are treated. Even so, the biological proclivity to participate in a particular form of problem solving must also be coupled
with the cultural nurturing of that domain. For example, language, a
universal skill, may manifest itself particularly as writing in one
culture, as oratory in another culture, and as the secret language of
anagrams in a third.
Given the desire of selecting intelligences that are rooted in biology, and that are valued in one or more cultural settings, how does
one actually identify an “intelligence”? In coming up with our list,
we consulted evidence from several different sources: knowledge
about normal deTlopment and development in gifted individuals;
information about the breakdown of cognitive skills under conditions of brain damage; studies of exceptional populations, including
prodigies, idiots savants, and autistic children; data about the evolution of cognition over the millennia; cross-cultural accounts of cognition; psychometric studies, including examinations of correlations
among tests; and psychological training studies, particularly measures of transfer and generalization across tasks. Only those candidate intelligences that satisfied all or a majority of the criteria were
selected as bona fide intelligences. A more complete discussion of
each of these criteria for an “intelligence” and the seven intelligences
that have been proposed so far, is found in Frames of Mind. 3 This
. book also considers how the theory might be disproven and compares it to competing theories of intelligence.
In addition to satisfying the aforementioned criteria, each intelligence must have an identifiable core operation or set of operations.
As a neutrally based computational system, each intelligence is activated or “triggered” by certain kinds of internally or externally presented information. For example, one core of musical intelligence is
the sensitivity to pitch relations, whereas one core of linguistic intelligence is the sensitivity to phonological features.
An intelligence must also be susceptible to encoding in a symbol
system-a culturally contrived system of meaning, which captures
and conveys important forms of information. Language, picturing,
and mathematics are but three nearly worldwide symbol systems
that are necessary for human survival and productivity. The relationship of a candidate intelligence to a human symbol system is no
accident. In fact, the existence of a core computational capacity
anticipates the existence of a symbol system that exploits that capacity. While it may be possible for an intelligence to proceed without
an accompanying symbol system, a primary characteristic of human
intelligence may well be its gravitation toward such an embodiment.
The Seven Intelligences
Having sketched the characteristics and criteria of an intelligence, we tum now to a brief consideration of each of the seven
intelligences. We begin each sketch with a thumbnail biography of a
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New
York: Basic Books. [Gardner’s note]
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
person who demonstrates an unusual facility with that intelligence.
These biographies illustrate some of the abilities that are central to
the fluent operation of a given intelligence. Although each biography
illustrates a particular intelligence, we do not wish to imply that in
adulthood intelligences operate in isolation. Indeed, except for
abnormal individuals, intelligences always work in concert, and any
sophisticated adult role will involve a melding of several of them.
Following each biography we sunvey the various sources of data that
support each candidate as an “intlelligence.”
When he was three years old, YÂ¢hudi Menuhin was smuggled into
the San Francisco Orchestra concerts by his parents. The sound of
Louis Persinger’s violin so emtranced the youngster that he
insisted on a violin for his birthday and Louis Persinger as his
teacher. He got both. By the time he was ten years old, Menuhin
was an international performer.”
Violinist Yehudi Menuhin’s musical intelligence manifested itself 17
even before he had touched a vionn or received any musical training.
His powerful reaction to that particular sound and his rapid progress
on the instrument suggest that he was biologically prepared in some
way for that endeavor. In this way evidence from child prodigies
supports our claim that there is a biological link to a particular intelligence. Other special population$, such as autistic children who can
play a musical instrument beautif.Illy but who cannot speak, underscore the independence of musicall intelligence.
A brief consideration of the e!vidence suggests that musical skill 18
passes the other tests for an inteHigence. For example, certain parts
of the brain play important roles in perception and production of
music. These areas are characteristically located in the right hemisphere, although musical skill is not as clearly “localized,” or located
in a specifiable area, as language. Although the particular susceptibility of musical ability to brain qlamage depends on the degree of
training and other individual diffttrences, there is clear evidence for
“amusia” or loss of musical ability.
Music apparently played an important unifying role in Stone 19
Age (Paleolithic) societies. Birdsoqg provides a link to other species.
Evidence from various cultures supports the notion that music is a
Menuhin, Y. (1977). Unfinishedjourttey. New York: Knopf. [Gardner’s note]
uniyersal faculty. Studies of infant development suggest that there is
a “~aw” computational ability in early childhood. Finally, musical
not~tion provides an accessible and lucid symbol system.
Â· In short, evidence to support the interpretation of musical ability
as ~n “intelligence” comes from many different sources. Even though
mu~ical skill is not typically considered an intellectual skill like
ma~hematics, it qualifies under our criteria. By definition it deserves
coqsideration; and in view of the data, its inclusion is empirically
Â· Fifteen-year-old Babe Ruth played third base. During one game
his team’s pitcher was doing very poorly and Babe loudly criticized him from third base. Brother Mathias, the coach, called out,
“Ruth, if you know so much about it, YOU pitch!” Babe was surprised and embarrassed because he had never pitched before, but
Brother Mathias insisted. Ruth said later that at the very moment
â?¢ he took theÂ· pitcher’s mound, he KNEW he was supposed to be a
Â· pitcher and that it was “natural” for him to strike people out.
Indeed, he went on to become a great major league pitcher (and,
‘ of course, attained legendary status as a hitter). 5
Like Menuhin, Babe Ruth was a child prodigy who recognized 2~
hisl “instrument” immediately upon his first exposure to it. This l
reqognition occurred in advance of formal training.
Control of bodily movement is, of course, localized in the motor 2~
co~tex, with each h~misphere dominant or controlling bodily move~
m~nts on the contra-lateral side. In right-handers, the dominance for
suÂ¢h movement is ordinarily found in the left hemisphere. The ability
to ~erform movements when directed to do so can be impaired even
in !individuals who can perform the same movements reflexively or
on1 a nonvoluntary basis. The existence of specific apraxi.a6 constitutes
on,e line of evidence for a bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
The evolution of specialized body movements is of obvious
ad~antage to the species, and in humans this adaptation is extended
thtough the use of tools. Body movement undergoes a clearly defined
de~elopmentalschedule in children. And there is little question of its
Connor, A. (1982). Voices from Cooperstown. New York: Collier. (Based on a
quptation taken from The Babe Ruth Story, Babe Ruth&: Bob Considine. New York:
D~tton, 1948.) [Gardner’s note]
apraxia A neurological disorder characterized by an inability to execute purpo~eful movements despite having the desire or physical ability to do so.
The Theory of ~ultiple Intelligences
universality across cultures. Thus it ~ppears that bodily-kinesthetic
“knowledge” satisfies many of the crit~ria for an intelligence.
The consideration of bodily-kine~thetic knowledge as “problem
solving” may be less intuitive. Certainly carrying out a mime sequence
or hitting a tennis ball is not solving! a mathematical equation. And
yet, the ability to use one’s body t~ express an emotion (as in a
dance), to play a game (as in a sport); or to create a new product (as
in devising an invention) is evidenqe of the cognitive features of
body usage. The specific computatio* required to solve a particular
bodily-kinesthetic problem, hitting a ~ennis ball, are summarized by
At the moment the ball leaves the server’s racket, the brain calculates approximately where it will la~d and where the racket will
intercept it. This calculation includes Ithe initial velocity of the ball,
combined with an input for the pr~gressive decrease in velocity
and the effect of wind and after the ~ounce of the ball. Simultaneously, muscle orders are given: no!j t once, but constantly with
refined and updated information. e muscles must cooperate. A
movement of the feet occurs, the ra et is taken back, the face of
the racket kept at a constant angle. !Contact is made at a precise
point that depends on whether the or~er was given to hit down the
line or cross-court, an order not giyen until after a split-second
analysis of the movement and balanc~ of the opponent.
To return an average serve, youtave about one second to do
this. To hit the ball at all is remark ble and yet not uncommon.
The truth is that everyone who inhab’ts a human body possesses a
remarkable creation. 7
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence! In 1983 Barbara McClintock
won the Nobel Prize in medicine ot physiology for her work in
microbiology. Her intellectual powers of deduction and observation illustrate one form of logical-m*hematical intelligence that is
often labeled “scientific thinking.” O*e incident is particularly illuminating. While a researcher at Corpell in the 1920s McClintock
was faced one day with a problem: w~ile theory predicted 50-percent
pollen sterility in com, her research as4istant (in the “field”) was finding plants that were only 25- to 30-percent sterile. Disturbed by this
discrepancy, McClintock left the cdmfield and returned to her
office, where she sat for half an hour, ~hinking:
Suddenly I jumped up and ran back tq the (com) field. At the top of
the field (the others were still at the ~ottom) I shouted “Eureka, I
Gallwey, T. (1976). Inner Tennis. NewY9rk: Random House. [Gardner’s note]
have it! I know what the 30% sterility is!” … They asked me to
prove it. I sat down with a paper bag and a pencil and I started from
scratch, which I had not done at all in my laboratory. It had all been
done so fast; the answer came and I ran. Now I worked it out step by
step-it was an intricate series of steps-and I came out with [the
same result). [They) looked at the material and it was exactly as I’d
said it was; it worked out exactly as I had diagrammed it. Now, why
did I know, without having done it on paper? Why was I so sure?8
This anecdote illustrates two essential facts of the logicalmathematical intelligence. First, in the gifted individual, the process of
â?¢problem solving is often remarkably rapid-the successful scientist
Â· Â· copes with many variables at once and creates numerous hypotheses
that are each evaluated and then accepted or rejected in tum.
The anecdote also underscores the nonverbal nature of the intelligence. A solution to a problem can be constructed before it is articulated. In fact, the solution process may be totally invisible, even to the
problem solver. This need not imply, however, that discoveries of this
sort-the familiar “Aha!” phenomenon-are mysterious, intuitive, or
unpredictable. The fact that it happens more frequently to some
people (perhaps Nobel Prize winners) suggests the opposite. We
interpret this as the work of the logical-mathematical intelligence.
Along with the companion skill of language, logical-mathematical
reasoning provides the principal basis for IQ tests. This form of intelligence has been heavily investigated by traditional psychologists, and it
is the archetype of “raw intelligence” or the problem-solving faculty
that purpo …
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