Types of Intelligence
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Types of Intelligence

Is there one general intelligence, or are there many types? This article discusses the multiple intelligences theory.

Multiple Intelligences

Some researchers assume that a high general intelligence does not necessarily correlate with special talents. Such talents do not appear to be a reflection of a ‘general intelligence’, but rather the consequence of specific skills.

To explain these extraordinary talents, Howard Gardner proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. In this context, intelligence is the ability to detect and solve problems in a particular area. This ability constitutes the basis for the acquisition of new knowledge in this area. In contrast to the idea of a general intelligence, Gardner’s theory results in the suggestion that intelligence is bound to a certain content.

Eight Types of Intelligence

In the theory of multiple intelligences, eight types of intelligence can be distinguished. Three of these can be measured by conventional intelligence tests:

  • Linguistic intelligence: this is expressed by fluency in language use, and is important when someone is asked to describe or explain something. Poets, playwrights, writers, translators and orators tend to possess a high linguistic intelligence.
  • Logic-mathematical intelligence: this refers to skill in calculating, logical reasoning and problem-solving. This is a classical component of many ideas about intelligence and plays an important role in western education. Mathematicians, philosophers and logicians generally score very high on this type of intelligence.
  • Spatial intelligence: this comprises the capacity to accurately perceive the physical world and transform these perceptions in ones imagination. This is often highly expressed in architects, decorators and taxi drivers.

Besides these, there are three other types of intelligence that are tied to specific talents:

  • Musical intelligence: this enables people to discern pitch, rhythm and timbre, both in composition and in performance. Musicians, composers and singers tend to posses this in great amount.
  • Kinesthetic intelligence: this is expressed by knowing a lot about and understanding the extent and limits of the movements of the human body, along with the skill to perform intricate motions. Athletes, dancers, surgeons and sculptors often exhibit this type of intelligence in a high degree.
  • Naturalistic intelligence: this refers to the skill to recognize and understand living organisms. This requires the ability to recognize patterns and, based on this, identify species. Not just identifying species matters, but also respectfully dealing with them. Agriculturists and natural scientists possess a lot of this type of intelligence.

Finally, two types of social-emotional intelligences can be discerned:

  • Interpersonal intelligence: the skill to notice distinctive characteristics in others and dealing with them appropriately.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence: this type of intelligence allows one to set manageable goals, monitor and correct oneself and react emotionally adequate. This is essential in being pleased about oneself and in taking life-changing decisions.


  • Chen, J.-Q.; Moran, S. & Gardner, H. (2009). Multiple Intelligences Around the World. Jossey-Bass.
  • Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons. Basic Books.

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Comments (1)

Great analysis! Some added info here, thanks...stumbled.