Alternate Views of Intelligence (page 2)
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.
Triarchic Model of Intelligence
Sternberg (1985, 2003a) has also developed a theory of multiple intelligences. His theory is labeled the triarchic model of intelligence because he proposes three distinct types of intelligence:
Componential or analytical intelligence is what is tested with traditional intelligence tests. Experiential or creative intelligence facilitates creative solutions to problems or the development of novel products. Contextual or practical intelligence is largely distinct from analytical intelligence but also highly correlated to job performance (Sternberg et al., 2000).
Sternberg defined successful intelligence as the “ability to succeed according to what one values in life, within one’s sociocultural context” (Sternberg, 2003a, p. 400). This definition broadens the scope of what it means to be intelligent and opens the door to the possibility that there is more to intelligence than g. His argument was based on studies that explored what is considered “intelligent” in other countries. Cross-cultural studies have shown that those individuals who score high in practical intelligence are usually considered most intelligent. In rural Kenya, for example, practical knowledge regarding use of natural herbal medicines is valued highly and correlates negatively with tests of intelligence as well as math achievement (Sternberg et al., 2001). In another study, 261 adolescents who lived in rural and semiurban Yup’ik Alaskan communities were administered tests that assessed academic intelligence and practical intelligence (e.g., knowledge of fish preparation, weather, hunting, and herb and berry gathering). Urban Yup’ik youth outperformed rural Yup’ik on tests of componential intelligence. But rural Yup’ik scored higher than their urban counterparts on tests of practical intelligence, and both Yup’ik youth and adults rated the value of practical skills more highly (Grigorenko et al., 2004). Results such as these strengthen the argument for multiple means of assessing intelligence with sensitivity to cultural experience. The advantage of this approach is that we learn more about the role intelligence plays in the everyday lives of diverse children.
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