Reflections on Multiple Intelligences

by Howard Gardner

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This article appeared in the Wisconsin Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (WASCD) newsletter a number of years ago. It is a summary of an article written by Dr. Howard Gardner for Phi Delta Kappan magazine in November of 1995. This article is reprinted with permission of WASCD.

Reflections On Multiple Intelligences

Mr. Gardner sites seven “myths” that have grown up about multiple intelligences and attempts to set the record straight by presenting seven complementary “realities.”

Myth 1: Now that seven intelligences have been identified, one can (and perhaps should) create seven tests and secure seven scores.

Reality 1: MI theory represents a critique of “psychometics-as-usual.” A battery of MI tests is inconsistent with the major tenets of the theory.

Myth 2: An intelligence is the same as a domain or a discipline.

Reality 2: An intelligence is a new kind of construct, and it should not be confused with a domain or a discipline.

Myth 3: An intelligence is the same thing as a “learning style,” a “cognitive style,” or a “working style.”

Reality 3: The concept of style designates a general approach that an individual can apply equally to every conceivable content. In contrast, an intelligence is a capacity, with its component processes, that is geared to a specific content in the world (such as musical sounds or spatial patterns).

Myth 4: MI theory is not empirical. (A variant of Myth 4 alleges that MI theory is empirical but has been disapproved.)

Reality 4: MI theory is based wholly on empirical evidence and can be revised on the basis of new empirical findings.

Myth 5: MI theory is incompatible with g (general intelligence), with hereditarian accounts, or with environmental accounts of the nature and causes of intelligence.

Reality 5: MI theory questions not the existence but the province and explanatory power of g. By the same token, MI theory is neutral on the question of heritability of specific intelligences, instead underscoring the centrality of genetic/environmental interactions.

Myth 6: MI theory so broadens the notion of intelligence that it includes all psychological constructs and thus vitiates the usefulness, as well as the usual connotation, of the terms.

Reality 6: This statement is simply wrong. I believe that it is the standard definition of intelligence that narrowly constricts our view, treating a certain form of scholastic performance as if it encompassed the range of human capacities and leading to disdain for those who happen not to be psychometrically bright. Moreover, I reject the distinction between talent and intelligence; in my view, what we call “intelligence” in the vernacular is simply a certain set of “talents” in the linguistic and/or logical-mathematical spheres.

Myth 7: There is an eighth (or ninth or tenth) intelligence.

Reality 7: Not in my writings so far. But I am working on it.

[Editor’s Note: Since this article, Dr. Gardner has written a new book entitled Intelligence Reframed in which he proposes additional intelligences from the original seven discussed in his original book, Frames of Mind, where he presented his research on the theory of multiple intelligences.]


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