In the early 1980s, psychologist Howard Gardner published a book entitled Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
In it, he described his theory of how there are many facets of intelligence, rather than intellect being dependent on just one factor.
He put forth the idea that human intelligence can’t be measured by one mean standard, but instead has many different types of cognitive abilities.
This is why some people who are extraordinarily good in certain subjects do poorly in others, and why school tests cannot accurately measure how smart a student is.
We’re all smart in different ways, and his model of 9 types of intelligence allows us to determine our strengths and weaknesses.
By doing so, we can put special focus on the areas we’d like to improve, without feeling that there’s anything wrong with us for not being innately gifted in those facets.
These 9 types of intelligence are…
1. Interpersonal Intelligence
Some folks just naturally relate well to other people. These are the types who can “work a room” with ease.
They tend to be popular and well liked by most, and can influence others easily.
They can read others like books, and pick up on even the subtlest social cues (like body language) to sense what other people are feeling.
If we were to use a high school stereotype, an interpersonally intelligent teenager would not only be one of the most popular kids in school – they’d likely also be valedictorian.
They’re able to relate to others easily by matching the other person’s energy and wavelength, able to communicate verbally as well as nonverbally.
They are naturally diplomatic and tactful, and it’s not unusual for them to be the “peacemakers” in their social circles.
Their natural charm and ability to negotiate means they can thrive in leadership roles, whether as teachers, lawyers, politicians, or social influencers.
2. Intrapersonal Intelligence
Although Intrapersonal intelligence might seem like the polar opposite to the Interpersonal type, these two actually have many aspects in common.
People who have an uncanny ability to understand their own emotions tend to be very empathic toward others as well. By understanding themselves, they can understand others.
Makes sense, right?
These people tend to be very attuned to their own thoughts and behavioral patterns. As such, when they see similar behavior in others, they can empathize with them and see beneath the surface to where their actions originate.
This makes many intrapersonal types very caring and nurturing, and they can often be found doing work that allows them to help others.
Although many of them are introverted and shy, they have a tendency to be incredibly aware and creative as well.
Many writers, artists, and musicians score highly in Intrapersonal intelligence, likely because they’re able to tap into aspects of themselves that most people aren’t even aware of.
3. Spatial Intelligence
If I asked you to picture a red rose, can you “see” it clearly in your mind’s eye? What about envisioning your bedroom?
Are you able to imagine all sides of a dice, picturing it being turned around so you can see every part of it?
People who have high spatial intelligence have a very easy time envisioning things in three dimensions.
They tend to be very creative, have sharp imaginations, and can consider every aspect of a concept – often just by musing about it.
When they were small children, they probably loved to do mazes, build their own LEGO creations, and put together intricate puzzles, or were reprimanded for daydreaming.
They likely loved to draw, and may have developed a penchant for reading mysteries as they got older… mostly to see if they could solve it before the end of the book.
4. Naturalist Intelligence
Those who have highly developed naturalist skills tend to be most at home when they’re outside.
These are the people who can spot a ripe raspberry from 30 feet away, or identify different tree species at a glance.
They delight in spending time with animals, and seem happiest when squidging their bare toes in sand or moss.
Some of these people may have developed a strong kinship with the land around them, either as stewards, or even farmers.
They may delight in growing their own produce, and take special joy in cultivating different vegetables and herbs, and then cooking with them. Farm to table is a lifestyle for them, not a passing hipster trend.
These are the people you want with you on a camping trip. They can discriminate between beneficial and toxic plants by identifying minute differences, and tell you whether a storm is rolling in just by glancing at the clouds.
5. Musical Intelligence
Just about all of us know someone who’s either constantly tapping their feet, drumming on any available surface, or humming/singing to themselves.
Those with high musical intelligence have a highly developed sense of tone, pitch, rhythm, and timbre, and can usually tell if a musical instrument needs tuning just because it sounds “off.”
They may have very discriminating taste in the bands they listen to, and may be highly sensitive to sound.
Some are prodigies who can play any song by ear, while others may be synaesthetic and love how different notes can make them see/feel color or taste particular flavors.
6. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence
Those who excel in calculus and algebra classes without tearing their hair out likely have pretty high mathematical/logical intelligence types.
Most of these people can do intermediate to advanced math problems in their heads, while others take hours to figure out the same assignments.
They may see patterns where others just see noise, and tend to have advanced deductive reasoning skills.
Some may take part in strategy games, while others will do math problems just for fun. Yes, those people actually exist.
They may not be the most emotional types, as they prefer logic and rationality, and they’re often found working in STEM fields.
7. Existential Intelligence
Have you ever met a person who just goes about their daily life not paying much attention to the hows and whys of existence?
Those who are perfectly content to focus on things like celebrity gossip, fashion, or sports, without tackling any deep questions about the meaning of life/death/existence as a whole?
A lot of people are uncomfortable with such topics, but those whose existential intelligence type is highly developed are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
They might spend hours lost in thought, considering all the aspects of human existence.
They’ll mull and muse and journal about spiritual topics, particularly about who we were before we were born, and what happens after we transition out of this life, into the realm beyond death.
These people are often considered intense by those who prefer to bob around life’s shallow end, but they tend to be sensitive, considerate souls with an abundance of compassion and empathy.
8. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence
Although you might assume that this intelligence type has to do with extraordinary athletic ability, that isn’t necessarily the case.
It’s less about strength and stamina, and more to do with hand-eye coordination, and the ability to use all kinds of different physical skills.
Sure, dancers, martial arts professionals, and athletes tend to score very highly in this type, but so do knitters, fine artists, neurosurgeons, and classical musicians.
To have high scores in bodily/kinesthetic intelligence means that one has very fine motor control, as well as a strong sense of timing. One’s mind-body connection is highly attuned, allowing for quick reaction times and the ability to multitask effectively.
9. Linguistic Intelligence
People with high linguistic intelligence tend to revel in puns, and may have been called “word nerds” or “walking dictionaries” at some point in time.
They may also have a strong aptitude for other languages, often speaking two or three in addition to their mother tongue.
Those who score highly in this type often enjoy crosswords, anagrams, and other word puzzles, and you can rest assured they will kick your butt at Scrabble.
They might enjoy writing as much as reading, and have kept diaries and journals from earliest childhood onwards.
Having a high linguistic intelligence score doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re great at conversations or public speaking: that depends on whether they have a strong inter- or intrapersonal intelligence type.
The former might prefer to express themselves in written letters, while the latter prefer to talk about things.
How Do I Know Which Types I’m Best At?
Well, like pretty much every other topic you can imagine, you can take an online quiz.
You probably already have a pretty strong idea about which you have greater strengths in, but others might surprise you.
For example, some of the types have interesting crossovers, such as logic/mathematical and musical intelligences.
Music uses fractions to show note length, while time signatures give musicians and conductors information about a piece’s rhythm. Drummers need to keep time in order to maintain a beat, and classical music is quite mathematical in terms of structure and repetition.
As such, someone who has a strong logical/mathematical lean may also really enjoy music, playing musical instruments, and the like.
Of course, someone who loves logic and puzzles may also have very high linguistic or spatial intelligence.
Think about the subjects you enjoy most. Which do you excel in? Which make you happiest and most confident? Think about the intelligence types that each of them may relate to, and you’ll likely be able to determine which you’re best at.
Then you can confirm it with the quiz above.
What, Specifically, Can I Do To Work On Each?
Like strengthening muscles or doing puzzles to keep your mind active, there are different kinds of activities you can partake in to strengthen each of these intelligence types.
Think about the different types, and what they involve. Then think about some of the subjects associated with them. Do any of those pique your interest?
When it comes to developing some of these intelligence aspects, the key is to take part in activities that you enjoy.
You’ll have little motivation to improve a skill set if you feel obligated to do so instead of enthusiastic about it. Have you ever enjoyed a task that you felt you HAD to do, instead of WANTING to do it?
Here are a few ways that you can hone these intelligence types.
Read more! Whatever topics interest you, pick up some books and set aside some uninterrupted time to read them.
Perform slam poetry on open mic nights. Do you like to write? Grab a blank journal and some cool pens and start jotting down your thoughts. Don’t hold back: just write whatever comes to mind without overthinking or judging.
Grab a book of Sudoku puzzles and some sharpened pencils and go sit in the park. Play chess with some of the old men already there.
Watch murder mystery shows, and take notes about the clues being shared. Download some geometry puzzles online and work them out for fun.
Do you like sports? Take down statistics during the game instead of just cramming hot dogs into your face.
Tackle the total redesign/redecoration of a room in your house. Draw it out first, or compose it in a 3D computer program, then take matters into your own hands.
Sew curtains. Sculpt decorative pieces out of air-dry clay. Borrow your kid’s building blocks when they’re asleep and build cool stuff just for fun.
Kick someone’s backside at JENGA. Buy a model airplane and put it together by yourself.
Take some kind of physical movement class, be it yoga, tai chi, or ballet. Go for long walks/hikes and take note of how your body feels.
Teach yourself to juggle. Learn how to knit or weave or do embroidery. Hire a personal trainer and have them work with you to strengthen your body in the way that’s best for you.
Volunteer at an animal rehabilitation facility. Foster kittens. Plant some herbs indoors and tend them as they grow. Cultivate some houseplants.
Take long walks out in nature whenever possible. Spend time near bodies of water, especially if that means canoeing or swimming in them. Take an herbalism course and learn how to transform plants into medicine.
If you don’t play a musical instrument yet, there’s no time like the present to learn.
Buy yourself a student-grade guitar (or keyboard) and watch some YouTube tutorials.
Buy tickets to music shows, from symphonies to rock concerts, and revel in all of them.
Take singing lessons. Listen to classical music and see if you can determine the different instruments used in each piece. Learn different tones by ear, and then identify them when you hear them in other situations.
Join some MeetUp groups in topics that interest you, and spend time talking with like-minded individuals.
If you’re still in school, see if there’s a debate team you can join. Volunteer with groups that welcome new immigrants, and help them feel at home.
Join an organization that does outreach work with under-served populations like the homeless, the elderly, or disadvantaged youth.
If you don’t already meditate, start doing so. Listen to guided meditations, and write your thoughts down in your journal.
In any given situation, pay close attention to how you feel, how your body reacts, and how your body and mind work together.
Fill out one of those “All About Me” blank books in which questions prompt you to list your favorite/least favorite things. Be very honest with yourself about what you really enjoy, so you can be as authentic as possible.
Delve into a spiritual path that you really lean toward. Or, pursue several paths so you can determine how you feel about each one’s teachings.
Really take time to consider how you feel about some of life’s most pressing questions, without trying to escape them if they make you uncomfortable.
Write your thoughts down, whether you feel like sharing them with others, or keeping them to yourself.
Read books on philosophy – both Western and Eastern. Sit in silence and see what thoughts pop into your mind when you’re not actively entertaining yourself.
Remember that these are just a few serving suggestions: since we all have our own preferences, these may appeal to some, but not others.
Be creative in coming up with activities that will keep you engaged, as they’ll go a lot further to tone up those intelligence muscles than a halfhearted, begrudging attempt ever could.
You may also like (article continues below):
- 9 Signs Of High Social Intelligence
- How To Deal With Emotionally Unintelligent People
- The Ultimate Guide To Critical Thinking
- Are You A ‘Sensing’ Or An ‘Intuitive’ Personality Type?
Should I Focus On One/A Few?
Although we all have every type of intelligence, there will inevitably be some types in which we have greater skills than others.
Of course, you can absolutely work on developing all of them – as mentioned above – but deep down, do you really want to?
Each intelligence type has its uses, and being well-balanced in many/most of them will undoubtedly help just about everyone over the course of their lives.
That said, if someone honestly hates to read, and the thought of public speaking makes them feel like vomiting, what benefit will they get from forcing themselves to develop their linguistic abilities?
Focus on the ones that matter most to you at this point in time. The others are still there, and will undoubtedly be used now and then.
In fact, you may find that different types will take precedence at different points in your life.
If your entire life revolves around sports right now, how important is it for you to cultivate existential skills?
20 years down the road, you may feel differently. Right now, triage the most important intelligence facets, and determine which are so important to you that you want to bulk up those muscles however you can.
Which Are Most Valuable In Life?
Albert Einstein is famous for many things, but this quote is one that always stood out to me:
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
Every person is different, and each of us has varying degrees of capability in these different intelligence types.
For example, I have very high linguistic intelligence, along with naturalist, existential, and kinesthetic.
That said, I can’t do math to save my life, my intrapersonal skills are practically nonexistent, and my spatial, musical, and interpersonal abilities are mediocre at best.
Although I’ve gotten frustrated at times when I’ve had to focus in subjects in which I have little proficiency – like struggling to sort out my taxes – my linguistic abilities have granted me a career in writing and editing, which I enjoy tremendously.
Finding fulfillment in your chosen career path is pretty valuable, and my secondary linguistic skills have allowed me to learn several languages, which are helpful when I travel.
They key here isn’t a question of “which types are most valuable in life,” but rather, “which types do YOU feel are most valuable in YOUR life.”
To thine own self be true.
What Types Of Jobs Are Best Suited To Each Intelligence?
Well, if you take a bit of time to think about different career paths and the attributes that successful people in those fields exhibit, you’ll likely start to see a pattern emerge.
As mentioned, my strongest intelligence score happened to be linguistic. I speak several languages, have spent over 20 years as a writer and editor, and have done a fair amount of public speaking.
When we pursue career goals that align with our strengths, we’re a lot more fulfilled (and less stressed out) than if we choose careers we think we should pursue instead.
Let’s take a look at the intelligence types, and the jobs that would be best for each.
As mentioned, people with high interpersonal abilities are great at communicating with others. They can influence other people, have great mediating abilities, and can generally make others feel at ease.
They tend to thrive in jobs where they can have a positive influence on the world, and where their natural extroversion can inspire and motivate others. Check out some of these options:
- Social Worker
- Human Resource Manager
- Spiritual Leader
- Creative Agent
- Motivational Speaker
- Conflict Resolution Specialist
- Social Worker
- Peace Corps Director
- Marketing Manager
- Customer Service Specialist
People who are highly attuned to their own thoughts and emotions often do best in fields that combine the cerebral and the spiritual.
Though many are quite introverted, they can connect with other people quite authentically, and tend to thrive in careers in which they can be of service to others, such as:
- Wellness Counselor
- Energy Healer
- Spiritual Counselor
- Intelligence Officer
- Small Business Owner/Entrepreneur
- Personal Life Coach
Those who enjoy envisioning things in 3D (and building them!) thrive in careers where they can put their imaginations to good use.
Whether they’re working with their hands to build cool stuff, or designing stuff for other people to build, they can use their skills to their fullest potential.
Check out some of these options:
- Urban Planner
- 3D Modeler/Designer
- Systems Engineer
- Interior Designer/Decorator
- Graphic Designer
Some people are happiest when they’re interacting with nature. Their souls may soar when they go for long hikes in the woods, or they find true peace when interacting with animals. Or plants. Or rocks. Anything to do with the natural world, really.
For those types, some of these career paths would be utterly fulfilling:
- Veterinarian/Veterinary Assistant
- Forest Ranger
- Dog Trainer
- Marine Biologist
- Wilderness Guide
- Wildlife Illustrator
- Landscape Architect
- Animal Trainer
- Wetlands Ecologist
Nietzsche once said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Just about all of us love some type of music, and those of us who absolutely adore it would probably thrive in a career that revolves around it. Like one of these:
- Recording Engineer
- Music Producer
- Choir Director
- Music Therapist
- Sound Editor
- Conductor/Orchestra Director
- Music Teacher
- Voice Instructor
If problem solving, analysis, and higher mathematics make you happy, there’s a plethora of interesting career options for you.
STEM fields in particular tend to appeal to those who excel in this type, so the following career options may be of interest:
- Forensic Anthropologist
- Aerospace Engineer
- Computer Programmer
- Data Analyst
- Mathematician/Math Professor
Those with a strong mind-body connection, good reflexes, and/or fine motor control tend to excel in fields where they can do hands-on, physical work.
For some people, this means a career that involves building or athleticism. For others, it’s highly skilled creative hand work.
Some choices for these types include:
- Phys Ed Teacher
- Personal Trainer
- Yoga Instructor
Ideal careers for those with high linguistic intelligence include those that either involve conveying one’s own ideas, or putting someone else’s thoughts into order.
If your language skills are above average, here are some great career choices to consider pursuing:
- Marketing specialist
- Speech therapist
If existential intelligence was your highest score, fear not: there are career paths to choose from other than just being a decorative hermit in a ruin on someone’s property.
Those who have an existentialist, spiritual lean, can be among the most intuitive, sensitive souls, and can bring great comfort to others in difficult times.
- Yoga Instructor
- Spiritual Guide
- Death Midwife
- Funeral Director
- Meditation Instructor
As you may have gleaned from this piece, it’s absolutely okay (and quite normal) to excel in some subjects, and perform poorly in others.
You can be absolutely horrible at sports, but excel in music… and if you really want to increase your various intelligence types, there are many ways in which you can improve them.
What do you feel is your strongest intelligence type? Are you interested in improving the others?
Let us know in the comments section below.