Monday, February 28, 2011

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Applied to Personal Success

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Applied to Personal Success

      Howard Gardner describes himself and his contribution as "a psychologist/scholar who has tried to understand the human mind in its full richness and complexity" (Shaler & Gardner, 2006, para. 3). In an effort to identify this richness, and as a means to more appropriately measure intelligence in a manner not preferential to race, gender or cultural affectations, Gardner developed his theory of multiple intelligences (Grow, 1990). Most of the intelligence tests prior to Gardner's theory, measured intellectual abilities that promote success in school, but Gardner sought to measure more practical forms of intelligence, such as practical and emotional (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). He views intelligence as an ability or group of abilities to solve problems and fill needs intrinsic to a particular, or at least one, culture (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). He understood that what was accepted as intelligence in a modern Western society, may not be recognized as intelligence elsewhere because it does not fill any substantial need or find solution of any cultural consequence (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).

Gardner's Eight Intelligences

      Gardner's theory identifies eight intelligences including bodily/kinesthetic, which is the ability to control one's bodily movement, spatial, the ability to transform mental images, and linguistic or verbal, which is the competency to manipulate language in a fluid manner, and create power through language (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). He also identified musical intelligence as the aptitude to evoke emotional power in music through rhythm, pitch, harmony, and timbre (Grow, 1990). He identified logical/mathematical intelligence as the ability for concrete thinking and precise reasoning, and the two personal intelligences, interpersonal, which is social ability, and intrapersonal, the capacity to make sense of the experience of oneself (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Gardner later added the naturalist intelligence, which is the capacity to understand and attain community with nature (Grow, 1990), and he continues to speculate about the possibility of adding a ninth intelligence he calls existential (Gardner, 2008).

      Gardner chose the eight distinct intelligences in an attempt to create a fair and non-prejudicial representation of testing criteria for people of various ages, experiences, and cultural affects (Grow, 1990). He believed that prior measurements of intelligence reflected a bias toward technologically advanced societies, and other valid forms of intelligence were overlooked if not consequential in modern society (Grow, 1990). His basis for choosing the intelligences was according to their neurological independence, the experience of savants, and the distinct developmental course of the intelligence through one's life (Kowalski & Westen).

Three Ingredients to Personal Success

Linguistic Intelligence

      Gardner's view of linguistic intelligence combines the ability to learn languages, the skill to use articulate language to express oneself, and to teach others (Gardner, 2008). Linguistic intelligence allows an individual to communicate and articulate in such a way that will promote the accomplishment of goals (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). The individual highly skilled in this intelligence excels at explaining information, persuading people, and articulating plans and needs as a means of accomplishing extraordinary undertakings. A person who has high linguistic intelligence can lead, direct, and guide others (Grow, 1990). Based on previously learned material, people with strong linguistic intelligence take a keen interest in learning correct pronunciation and they may hear a hidden melody in words.

      Linguistic intelligence can powerfully impact personal success. The ability to speak clearly and articulately enables an individual to maintain a position of authority that provides the opportunity to lead and counsel. Additionally, this ability can encourage others to foster their own linguistic intelligence by exposure to articulate language and communication. The rhetorical skills of this intelligence enable the use of language as a tool for persuasion and refined negotiating skills necessary in many professions. Language is a constant facilitator in any culture used to explain, persuade, argue, describe, sell, and write. Having the skill to implement these basic human communication devices will support and promote success in any profession.

Interpersonal Intelligence

      Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to observe and embrace distinctions between people, understand their feelings, moods, and motivations, and recognize how to engage appropriately with them using empathy and understanding. Those skilled in this intelligence are socially aware and have a genuine concern for others (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Communicating is a basic and vital human need, and those who excel at interpersonal skills will find collaboration a much easier task. Skilled individuals have an ability to read people's reactions and excel at relating to others, which enables them to enlist the help of others for attaining collaborative goals and accomplishments (Gardner, 2008).

      The interpersonal intelligence has a distinctly profound effect on success as the skilled individual can respond to others and embrace individual concerns and differences. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of being skilled in this intelligence is the ability to influence and assist others in need. It is apparent that skill in the interpersonal intelligence powerfully enables and assists individuals in the field of psychological counseling. Awareness of and the ability to respond appropriately to the true needs of others is a significant benefit and value to both the counselor and the counseled, and will likely encourage the success of both individuals.

Intrapersonal Intelligence 

      Two words aptly describe the individual who is skilled in the intrapersonal intelligence: self-appraisal and introspection. Strength in this area shows ability for astute awareness of personal emotions, feelings, and motivations. Individuals skilled in intrapersonal intelligence enjoy self-reflection and evaluation and likely learn about the world by exploring themselves and their personal strengths, abilities, and shortcomings (Gardner, 2008). Often these individuals are introverted, prefer to work alone, and are highly motivated (Gardner, 2008).

      Based on previously learned material, individuals strong in intrapersonal intelligence have a natural tendency to ask deeper questions about life including meaning, relevance, and purpose, and can empower others and encourage and guide them through introspection and self-understanding. In a profession such as mental health counseling, understanding internal struggles from an experiential standpoint may be of significant value when helping others confronting similar issues. The value of personal experience in understanding others is inestimable and endows a person with characteristics necessary for authentic care and genuine compassion. An individual skilled in intrapersonal intelligence and trained in identifying internal personal issues will succeed in helping others, certainly in the context of a mental health counselor.


      Intelligence has taken on a wider meaning during the last few decades because of the evolution of psychological science and, at least in part, by Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (Kowalski & Weston, 2009). In theory, these intelligences are a product of inborn genetic attributes coupled with specific learning environments that support the growth and evolution of certain types of intelligence (Koetzsch, 1998). When individuals recognize and foster significant and evolved aptitudes, they may also discover professional applications in which their skills will be a design for success. Three of these intelligences, linguistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal are of significant value in a psychological profession that not only seeks to help others articulate emotional and internal challenges but also one that supports and promotes the ability to navigate the internal terrain with an articulate and experienced voice.

      In the words of Howard Gardner (1999), "An important part of that understanding is knowing who we are and what we can do. Ultimately, we must synthesize our understandings for ourselves. The performance of understanding that try matters are the ones we carry out as human beings in an imperfect world which we can affect for good or for ill" (p. 180-181).


Gardner, H. (1999). The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts And Standardized Tests, The K-12
Education That Every Child Deserves, New York: Simon and Schuster.

Gardner, H. (2008). The 25th anniversary of the publication of Howard Gardner’s Frames of
mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner. Retrieved July 21, 2010,

Grow, G. (1990). Writing and multiple intelligences. Presentation given at the annual meeting of
the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication. ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 406 643. Available on-line

Koetzsch, R. (1998). Multiple intelligences. Mothering, (88), 80. Retrieved from MasterFILE
Premier database.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Schaler, J. A., & Gardner, H. (2006). A blessing of influences. In Howard Gardner under Fire:
The Rebel Psychologist Faces His Critics. Chicago, IL: Open Court.

No comments:

Post a Comment