Alternate Views of Intelligence
Some researchers are dissatisfied with our nation’s heavy reliance on intelligence tests and the subsequent use of these tests for educational and occupational prognoses. Consequently, several alternatives to the traditional views of intelligence and assessment have been introduced.
Howard Gardner (1983, 1999, 2004) proposed a theory of multiple intelligences that takes into account more than just the higher-order cognitive abilities that make up g. He believed that people can be “intelligent” in many different ways and consequently proposed nine basic forms of intelligence:
- Linguistic. The ability to use language well (e.g., journalists and lawyers)
- Spatial. The ability to reason well about spatial relations (e.g., architects and surgeons)
- Musical. The ability to compose and understand music (e.g., audio engineers and musicians)
- Logical-Mathematical. The ability to manipulate abstract symbols (e.g., scientists and computer programmers)
- Bodily-Kinesthetic. The ability to plan and understand sequences of movements (e.g., dancers and athletes)
- Intrapersonal. The ability to understand oneself (e.g., clergy and psychologists)
- Interpersonal. The ability to understand other people and social interactions (e.g., politicians and teachers)
- Naturalist. The ability to observe carefully (e.g., forest rangers and biologists)
- Existential. The ability to address “the big questions” about existence (e.g., philosophers and theologians) (Gardner, 1999)
These separate classifications are not meant to suggest that individuals excel in only one domain, but rather that these abilities work together to allow people to solve a range of problems and learn what they need to adapt to their environment.
Gardner’s theory holds wide appeal because it resonates with people who may know someone who is not “book-smart” but “street-wise.” It values the talents of someone who may have dropped out of high school but can reconstruct a car engine in very little time. It lends equal weight to a form of practical intelligence that guides people to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with their environment—ideas not dissimilar from Wechsler’s definition of intelligence.
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