Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University. In his 1993 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he proposed the theory that all human abilities can be characterized into 8 ability areas tightly defined by a set of criteria defined by Dr. Gardner. Dr. Gardner believes that each individual possesses a unique blend of all 8 abilities, which are:
- Verbal-linguistics. People with high verbal-linguistics abilities display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing stories, and memorizing words along with dates. Imagine authors, voracious readers, or people who like to play with words (e.g., puns)
- Logical-mathematical. This ability involves logic, abstractions, reasoning, numbers and critical thinking. People with strong logical-mathematical abilities tend to like playing with numbers and determining causation of simple to complex systems. Imagine people who can do mental math with large numbers or tinkerers who like to figure out how things work.
- Visual-spatial. This ability includes spatial judgment and the ability to visualize things. Think of people who “think in pictures”, can solve Rubik’s Cube game very quickly or can spot tiny differences between seemingly identical pictures.
- Musical – rhythmic and harmonic. This ability involves sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. People with high musical ability usually have good pitch and may like to sing, play musical instruments and compose music. Think of people who like to make up music, walk around humming tunes, or can play musical instruments of interest.
- Bodily-kinesthetic. This ability involves the ability to control one’s bodily motions or the ability to handle objects skillfully. Think of talented athletes, dancers or actors.
- Interpersonal. This ability involves interactions with others. Individuals with high interpersonal ability tend to be keenly aware of others’ moods, feelings, and motivations and tend to like working as part of a group. Think of politicians or really good sales people.
- Intrapersonal. This ability involves introspection and self-reflective capacities. This refers to having deep understanding of one’s own strengths/weaknesses and predicting one’s own reactions. Think of someone who is really good at setting and achieving self-goals based on an understanding of what he/she can accomplish.
- Naturalistic. This ability involves relating to one’s natural environment. Think of botanists, “nature lovers” who like being in the wild, pet lovers who relate well to animals, or even chefs who can create unique combinations of flavors.
We all can relate to people who are extraordinarily talented in one area (e.g., professional athletes, musical prodigies, and mathematical geniuses) and yet have shortcomings in one or more of the other areas. Dr. Gardner’s work suggests that this is perfectly natural as each person possesses a mix of all these talents. Dr. Gardner’s framework helps to explain observations that autistic children sometimes have towering strengths in select areas and yet have significant deficiencies in other areas.
Implicit in Dr. Gardner’s work is the belief that a person’s intelligence cannot be described by a single factor or number – such as the concept of General Intelligence (g Factor) in psychology or a single IQ score. We at Identifor support Dr. Gardner’s theory as we see that individuals have varying strengths and weaknesses on the dimensions that he has outlined. We feel that many of these dimensions are not even considered by existing assessment tools, and hence have been overlooked in compiling ability profiles.
Not all of Dr. Gardner’s ability dimensions lend themselves to being assessed through the games Identifor seeks to create. Nor do we have the resources at the start to create games to assess all that can be assessed.
We will start with a heavier focus on logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, and musical abilities. We will add verbal-linguistics and bodily-kinesthetic games over time (e.g., using Xbox Kinect and other technologies to examine actual bodily movements). We frankly do not yet know how and are still working to determine what can be done to explore the other three ability areas. If you have ideas, we’d love to hear from you.
For more information about Multiple Intelligences, explore:
- In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences by Thomas Armstrong (August 7, 2010)
- Books by Howard Gardner for a more in-depth theoretical discussion
- Multiple Intelligences Oasis
- Explorama | Universe – a theme park in Denmark with 50 challenges all built to demonstrate Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and test your own abilities.