62 Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (Gardner, 1985) hypothesized that all human beings, barring any physical disabilities, have seven types of intelligences: logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. By becoming aware of these separate intelligences, Gardner & Hatch (1989) believed that discovering distinctions within people could have both educational and eventually vocational implications. Below is a more in-depth description of the seven original proposed intelligences along with naturalistic intelligence (added by Gardner in his 1999 book Intelligence Reframed) and potential career pairings for the respective intellectual strengths.   



Core Components


Scientist, Mathematician

Capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns; ability to handle long chains of reasoning


Poet, Journalist

Sensitivity to sounds, rhythms and meaning of words; sensitivity to language functions


Composer, Violinist

Abilities to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timbre; appreciation musical expressiveness


Navigator, Sculptor

Capacity to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to transform the spatial world


Dancer, Athlete

Abilities to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skillfully


Therapist, Salesman

Capacities to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, and desires of others


Person with detailed, accurate self-knowledge

Access to and ability to discriminate one’s own feelings to guide behavior; knowledge of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, desires and intelligences


Zoologist, Botanist

Appreciation for wildlife and the outdoors; adept at categorizing things in the natural world

Implications for the Classroom

Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles

One myth about multiple intelligences is that they are synonymous to separate learning styles, thinking styles, or working styles. Over a decade after creating his theory on multiple intelligences, Gardner (1995) clarified that in contrast to style, an intelligence is more of a capacity to understand and/or interact with particular content in the world. However, students still voice that they have preferences on how they wish to learn because it is the most effective way for them, whether it is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. Surprisingly, when these learning modalities are put to the test under controlled conditions, they make no difference; students learn to the same extent whether they are using their preferred way of learning or not (Riener & Willingham, 2010).  This is largely because humans are not locked into having only one type of intelligence; all of them are utilized at varying levels at different points in time.


“The MI theory leads to three conclusions: 1. all people possess the full range of intelligences: that is what makes human beings, cognitively speaking. 2. No two individuals—not even identical twins have exactly the same intellectual profile because, even when the genetic material is identical, individuals have different experiences (and identical twins are often highly motivated to distinguish themselves from one another.) 3. Having strong intelligence does not mean that one necessarily acts intelligently. A person with high mathematical intelligence might use her abilities to carry out important experiments in physics or create powerful new geometric proofs; but she might waste these abilities in playing the lottery all day or multiplying ten-digit numbers in her head” (Gardner, 2006, p.23).

Multiple Intelligences and Autism

All people have multiple intelligences with strengths and weaknesses in different areas, but people on the autism spectrum tend to have extremes. Temple Grandin, an autistic author on current autism research and the inner workings of the brain, is a doctor of animal science and professor at Colorado State. Grandin herself has said that people with autism are particularly skilled at one way of seeing the world and truly terrible at others. Instead of having a more normal balance of multiple intelligences, people with autism can be separated into three types of thinkers: visual, verbal, and pattern (Grandin, 2013).

  1. Visual: Temple Grandin is a visual thinker and describes it as “thinking in pictures”. Drawing and other art skills should be encouraged. Verbal responses can take longer because each request must be translated from words to pictures before it can be processed.
  2. Verbal: These people love lists and numbers and often will memorize timetables or sports statistics. Other interests include history, geography, weather, and foreign languages.
  3. Pattern: These people like finding relationships between numbers or musical notes. Some may have savant-like calculation skills or be able to play a piece of music after hearing it only once.
For more on learning theory and intelligences in autistic persons, see the web links below.  


Teaching Strategies that support this Learning Theory 

Linda Campbell, the author of Teaching & Learning through Multiple Intelligences, describes the following five approaches to adding Multiple Intelligences into any classroom (adapted from Guignon, 2010).  

  • Lesson Design: Addressing multiple intelligences directly in lesson design; team teaching where each instructor focuses on their own intelligence strengths; allowing students an opportunity to create curriculum in what Hoellermann (2014) calls “Open Innovation.”
  • Interdisciplinary Units: Within a variety of subjects, the flexibility of particular topics can be utilized to combine multiple intellectual approaches (i.e. visual, verbal, interpersonal, etc) into one assignment.
  • Student Projects: Students can learn to initiate and manage their own projects and explore which intelligences suit them best in their approach.
  • Assessments: Assessments aligned to learning outcomes will allow students to demonstrate mastery over what they have learned. As with the curriculum, students can be allowed to have a say in the way that they will be assessed while still meeting the teacher’s criteria.
  • Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships allow students to use discipline and effort over time in order to gain mastery of an important skill. Gardener feels that apprenticeships should take up about one-third of a student’s educational experience (Guignon, 2004).

Technology Tools that support this Learning Theory

Type your key takeaways here.

To view a comprehensive list of technology tools that align with the different intelligences, view Aditi Rao’s comprehensive guide to technology and multiple intelligences. In the guide, you will see each intelligence explained, followed by a list of technology tools that cater to that intelligence. Each technology is then linked to its source as well as briefly described.  However, not all of these tools are fully supported by IT Solutions.  For a list of our supported Enterprise tools, see our Technology Tools webpage.

On the Web 


In the Library 


Campbell, L., Campbell, B., & Dickinson, D. (2010). Teaching and learning through multiple intelligences (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Gardner, H. (1985). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Basic books. 

Gardner, H. & Hatch, T. (1989). Education implication of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational Researcher, 18(4). doi: 10.3102/0013189X018008004 

Gardner, H. (1995). Reflections on multiple intelligences: Myths and messages. Phi Delta Kappan, 77, 200-209. 

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. Basic Books. 

Gardner, H (2006). Multiple intelligences new horizons. New York, New York: Basic Books.  

Grandin, T., & Panek, R. (2013). The autistic brain: Thinking across the spectrum. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  

Guignon, A. (2004). Multiple intelligences: a theory for everyone. Retrieved from Education Worldhttp://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr054.shtml  

Höllermann, P. (2014, December 02). We the Students! Open Innovation Approaches for Curriculum and Service Design in Higher Education [PowerPoint slides]. International University of Applied Sciences Bad Honnef – Bonn (IUBH). https://www.slideshare.net/philipphoellermann/we-the-students-open-innovation-approaches-for-curriculum-and-service-design-in-higher-education

Riener, C. & Willingham, D. (2010). The myth of learning styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 42(5),  32-35. doi: 10.1080/00091383.2010.503139  


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