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The Seven Human Intelligences

by Mary Leppert and Michael Leppert

(Excerpted from The Homeschooling Almanac, 2000-2001. Copyright 2010, all rights reserved.)

Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard University, studied and developed his analytical outlook based on organizing human intelligence not as one element, but by the following seven categories of intelligence. Gardner submits that everyone is a mixture of all seven, in varying degrees. By looking through this “lens” of Gardner’s, we can see one or two predominant intelligences standing out in each person we know, including ourselves. The other intelligences are apparent in decreasing dominance and strength the further we analyze. Let us list the seven and discuss each a bit.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

People with this form of intelligence just can’t sit still. They wiggle constantly, make noises with their mouths, fingers, feet, hands, by either constantly tapping or by squeaking and squawking. They can’t wait to be outside playing, running, climbing trees—you name it. As adults, they fidget, probably doodle while on the phone. If a bodily-kinesthetic person has athletic skill as well, she or he will probably be very good at sports, dancing, and other such activities.

This type of person often has intuitive feelings about academic material. Such a one may know an answer to a problem, but not how to arrive at it. They “feel” it. They learn through their bodies, so to speak, doing best in atmospheres of action, touching, physical contact, working with their hands. One boy with a great deal of this type of intelligence memorized the capitals of the 50 states over a period of about five days while roller-blading on the family’s patio and repeating them after his father. To do this work sitting down would have been more than he could endure, plus it might have required ten days of struggle rather than five days of fun.

A child with this type of intelligence will not get along well in a typical school setting. Most schools teach children in a way that is more conducive to the logical-mathematical intelligence.

Interpersonal Intelligence

People with this form of intelligence have a strong personality and are sensitive to others and what is going on around them in general. They make great social types. Successful society hosts and hostesses who throw parties in large commercial cities would have strong interpersonal intelligence, knowing exactly who to invite to these important networking events as well as who to seat together and who to separate.

Great salespeople have this type of intelligence as well. They can ferret out a person’s need and successfully connect it with their product. Of course, they can also manipulate people in their negative manifestations. These people also tend to have “street smarts,” which help one navigate in the world. Interpersonally intelligent people can also be excellent politicians, both in getting elected and in putting empathy for others into practical use on a large scale. Children with this type of intelligence may enjoy playing group games and activities, and they tend to be very outgoing, often serving as the peacemakers in disputes. As adults, they can also use their interpersonal skills as counselors and mediators.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

Those whose intrapersonal intelligence is their primary intelligence have strong personalities also, but they manifest it in a more personal way than do those with the interpersonal variety. The intrapersonal type can happily work alone. They possess a deep awareness of themselves and have a highly developed inner world, which they do not characteristically enjoy exposing or sharing with others. If a person of this type is also skilled in music or another art, she or he can become very accomplished in the art form, although performing may not be appealing due to shyness.

Children with this predominant form of intelligence can be bookish and quietly knowledgeable, but they do not necessarily fare well in school. They are often autodidacts—people who teach themselves—and may become self-educated once they get beyond the high school or college academic imposition of grades and such. They possess an inner discipline and will to learn real things, not achieve synthetic grades. They also manifest themselves as independent and express strong opinions and feelings in heated discussions.

Linguistic Intelligence

Those with linguistic intelligence predominating are likely to be born poets and writers, loving to play with words just for the fun of it. Lewis Carroll probably possessed this form of intelligence, as do many famous song lyricists and poets. If they are less predisposed to writing, they may make excellent verbal storytellers and good yarn-spinners. Possibly Homer, who made up and recited epic poems, was of the linguistic group.

People with linguistic intelligence tend to love to read books and other forms of print and are naturally good spellers, possessing a strong memory for words in all of their forms, both as children and adults. They also may enjoy playing Scrabble and doing crossword puzzles or anagrams and other types of word puzzles and games. They are probably skilled at learning more than one language as well, noting the universal similarities among all the spoken/written forms of communication. Such people learn best by seeing, speaking, or hearing words, so reading print, listening to lectures, and taking notes are comfortable, successful ways for them to take in information. Telling others about this information often helps them to reinforce the learning process.

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

People who possess logical-mathematical intelligence think logically and easily see patterns. For instance, great chess players are successful because they reportedly “see” the patterns of moves—both theirs and their opponent’s. Logical-math people are also very good at transferring abstract concepts to reality and are often able to communicate these concepts to others. They may also enjoy solving life’s puzzles through the sciences and can be very good inventors, having the skill to visualize—and conceptually alter—an invention before they even make a prototype. A person such as this may enjoy Mensa puzzles and games or a card game such as Set, in which players must compete against each other to find the most combinations of similarities or differences in designs and shapes drawn on a deck of special cards. This requires lightning-fast visual analysis and the ability to process information in a certain way. These people normally do well in school, which was designed for their type of intelligence. The old-fashioned IQ tests measured this form of intelligence more than any other.

Musical Intelligence

People with musical intelligence often hum or sing to themselves. They have a great aptitude for music in general, being able to remember melodies after only three or four hearings, and they possess excellent pitch and usually a good sense of rhythm in varying degrees. Often, when a piece of music is playing, they cannot help but move some part of their bodies in time with it. These children and adults have a keen awareness of sounds other than music as well, such as the wind blowing, insects buzzing and chirping, and traffic noise. They can often learn by hearing information set to music or by writing their own music to it.

Not surprisingly, many of them are very talented musicians and often exhibit this ability early in life. Some who are not particularly gifted with playing or composing ability make sure critics, keenly interested in music and understanding it. Those having this type of intelligence often concentrate better with music playing in the background. To teach one with musical intelligence, you might use tapes that contain the information set to music, for instance. Or use music as a mood-enhancing tool to decrease stress and increase relaxation and concentration. A particular piano concerto by Mozart has actually been shown to exert a scientifically measurable change in the brains of listeners—a very interesting phenomenon! It increases concentration in some and just gives others a sense of clarity. Hopefully, in-depth study in this area of brain research will continue, and a musical catalog of “brain” tunes can be developed!

Spatial Intelligence

Having this form of intelligence imparts the ability to think and see in pictures and images. This would be a form of intelligence of a painter or sculptor who can “see” in his or her mind’s eye and bring forth in detail what others might miss. Those with this form of intelligence love to make charts and maps, so get your student involved by having him or her make simple maps of your house, your neighborhood, and your city. Let him work in geography as much as he likes.

Analyzing the learning styles and personalities is really no more than carefully examining the dynamics and fibers of every individual. Imagine putting 30 different people in one room and then wondering why they don’t do things the same way, see things the same way, agree on everything, and desire the same things. Yet this is exactly what is expected in mass-schooling today. ML2


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