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I'm Not Stupid...I Have Multiple Intelligences

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

We might think of intelligence as having one form, but a Harvard psychologist tells us we actually have 8 unique forms of intelligence that give us different talents. Understanding where you excel and where you are challenged is key. Check out this article to find out what intelligence you have.

- Woodsong

A Harvard psychologist says humans have 8 types of intelligence. Which ones do you score the highest in?

We’re not all naturally skilled at the same things. Some are more athletic and have better coordination. Some pick up on language and words faster at a young age, while others are good with numbers and visualizing patterns. But most people don’t fully understand their range of abilities, and as a result, may end up in the wrong careers. Or, they might enjoy their jobs, but struggle to identify effective learning techniques that will help them excel further.

The theory of multiple intelligences

To get a better sense of your skills and capabilities, I often recommend starting with the theory of multiple intelligences. First introduced in his 1983 book “Frames of Mind,” Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard University, states that there are eight types of human intelligence — each representing different ways of how a person best processes information.

How high you score in one category does not necessarily influence how (high or low) you score in another. If you want to learn to be exceptional at something, your best bet is to understand the unique areas of intelligence where you have an advantage, and then build upon those strengths. For example, consider someone who struggled with writing until they attempted to create a graphic story, which turned into a compelling narrative. Or a student who couldn’t seem to grasp fractions until they visualized separating apples into slices. Below are the eight types of intelligence identified by Gardner. As you go through each, score yourself on a scale of one (doesn’t come naturally) to five (comes very naturally).

1. Spatial intelligence

The ability to think abstractly and in multiple dimensions. Scoring a five means you have a large capacity for spatial reasoning and conceptualization — something required for fields such as architecture, graphic design, photography, interior design and aviation. Potential career choices:

  • Pilot

  • Fashion designer

  • Architect

  • Surgeon

  • Artist

  • Engineer

2. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

The ability to use your body in a way that demonstrates physical and athletic prowess. If you have this skill, you could be an athlete effortlessly running down a field and passing a ball, or a dancer flawlessly performing a complicated routine. Potential career choices:

  • Dancer

  • Physical therapist

  • Athlete

  • Mechanic

  • Builder

  • Actor

3. Musical intelligence

Sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody and timbre. This may entail the ability to sing and/or play musical instruments. Famous people with musical intelligence include Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix and Aretha Franklin. Potential career choices:

  • Singer

  • Musical conductor

  • DJ

  • Music teacher

  • Songwriter

  • Compose

4. Linguistic intelligence

Sometimes called “language intelligence,” this involves sensitivity to the meaning of words, the order among words, and the sound, rhythms, inflections and meter of words. Those who score high in this category are typically good at writing stories, memorizing information and reading. Potential career choices:

  • Poet

  • Novelist

  • Journalist

  • Editor

  • Lawyer

  • English professor

5. Logical/mathematical intelligence

The ability to analyze problems logically, carry out mathematical operations and investigate issues scientifically. People with this intelligence, such as Albert Einstein and Bill Gates, are skilled at developing equations and proofs and solving abstract problems. Potential career choices:

  • Computer programmer

  • Mathematician

  • Economist

  • Accountant

  • Scientist

  • Engineer

6. Interpersonal intelligence

The ability to interact effectively with others. Sensitivity to others people’s moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations. Essentially, it’s being able to understand and relate to those around you. Potential career choices:

  • Team manager

  • Negotiator

  • Politician

  • Publicist

  • Salesperson

  • Psychologist

7. Intrapersonal intelligence

Sensitivity to one’s own feelings, goals and anxieties, and the capacity to plan and act in light of one’s own traits. Intrapersonal intelligence is not particular to specific careers; rather, it is a goal for every individual in a complex modern society, where one has to make consequential decisions for oneself. Potential career choices:

  • Therapist

  • Counselor

  • Psychologist

  • Entrepreneur

  • Philosopher

  • Theorist

8. Naturalistic intelligence

The ability to understand the nuances in nature, including the distinction between plants, animals, and other elements of nature and life. Notable individuals with naturalistic intelligence include Charles Darwin and Jane Goodall. Potential career choices:

  • Geologist

  • Farmer

  • Botanist

  • Biologist

  • Conservationist

  • Florist

Understand and build upon your strengths

If you struggled to assess yourself, ask people closest to you for their observations. Or, consider the things you gravitated towards during your youth. (It’s usually when we’re kids that we pick up activities closely linked with our innate abilities.) Keep in mind that this is just a quick and simple exercise to provide you with a clearer sense of your strengths. Do your top skills and interests align with your career? If not, how can you use them to get to where you want to be? When we gain a deeper understanding of our natural talents, we have better chance of figuring out how to achieve goals in both our personal and professional lives. Dr. Kumar Mehta, Ph.D., is the author of “The Innovation Biome” and “The Exceptionals.” He researches, writes and speaks about personal excellence. Dr. Mehta also serves as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern. Follow him on Twitter @mehtakumar.


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