Naturalist Intelligence in the Age of the iPhone

In January 2018, Laura Jeliazkov published an article titled "An iPhone in Hand...Worth Two in the Bush?" in The Darthmouth newspaper. In the article, Jeliazkov considers the modern attachment--or perhaps addiction--to our mobile devices and the seemingly endless digital media they offer. As a way of understanding our cognitive relationship to our devices, Jeliazkov cites Naturalist Intelligence.

Notes by Howard Gardner

Since the original publication of Frames of Mind, I have added only one intelligence to the original seven—that of the naturalist. (Though, I have speculated about other possible intelligences.) As described in recent publications, the naturalist intelligence initially evolved so that we humans could make consequential distinctions in our natural environment—what to eat, what to spurn, what to hunt, what to avoid, how the weather might change in the next day or the next month.

In the modern era, however, most of us do not have to use the naturalist intelligence to survive in our built-up urban environments. But I’ve argued that the mind and brain capacities that evolved initially for life in the tundra are now readily called upon as we decide what to buy at the supermarket, what clothing to wear, how to decorate our homes, etc.

And now, there is a new powerful force in the environment: our smart devices, with their numerous (soon, innumerable) apps. In dealing with these devices, we not only make available all items for which one could conceivably shop. But also, as is pointed out in the accompanying article by Laura Jeliazkov, we have the opportunity to present and re-present ourselves as often as we want—as well as the chance to get the reactions of others—in words, in still pictures, or in live video. That’s a lot for the naturalist intelligence to do—as Jeliazkov suggests, perhaps too much! While I don’t remember it, she quotes me as saying, “If we went back into the woods to be with our naturalist intelligences, people would have time to think again. But today this may not be possible.”

To read the full article, click here: