Study of Learning Disorders: Evidence for MI Theory?

study of the relationship between learning disorders and intellectual profiles, published in February 2017 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, lends further empirical support to the theory of multiple intelligences.

Written by Enrico Toffalini, David Giofrè, and Cesare Cornoldi, the study sampled over 1,000 children diagnosed with specific learning disorders, revealing partial differences in intellectual profiles between subgroups.

Gardner commented on this finding, saying:

This large study of students with specific learning disabilities provides evidence for distinct multiple intelligences. Each of the four profiles has a revealing mixture of strengths and weaknesses. The study is especially notable because it focuses on difficulties in school—an institution which typically valorizes only linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences. One can readily assume that if one looks across the range of profiles of strengths and weaknesses, both in and outside of school, equally distinctive profiles would emerge.

A PDF of the article is available here via the Association for Psychological Science.

Thought Beyond Language

Notes by Howard Gardner

One of the most heated debates in the cognitive sciences revolves around the question of whether other cognitive capacities are dependent upon the structure and functioning of language,  or whether cognitive capacities in, say, music or number have an independent history and mode of representation.  This study provides suggestive evidence that the capacity to carry out syntactic operations (adding, deleting, transforming, reordering) operates independently in language and algebra.  Indeed, one could argue that the study achieves the ‘gold standard’ in this area. One can be competent with linguistic operations but not algebraic ones, or competent with algebraic operations but not linguistic ones.  And it therefore implies that perhaps syntax in music also operates independently.

It should be noted, however, that the apparent independence of these two forms of syntactic operations does not prove that they evolved or developed independently.  It is possible that, at its origins, syntactic operations are similar or even identical across different contents, and only gradually achieve structural or functional autonomy.  What seems more likely, in light of this finding, is that other forms of mathematical thinking; for example, that involved in geometric or topological thinking, is quite remote from ordinary language use. And so, in a small way, the results of this study are supportive of the central ideas in MI theory.

To read the article in its entirety click here.

The Brain’s Social Network

Notes by Howard Gardner

In recent years, evidence has accumulated that the practice of certain skills actually enhances the size of the brain areas dedicated to the particular skills-in-question.  We know that a regimen of juggling enhances motor cortex, even as, in a pre-GPS era, London cab drivers had larger hippocampi. Furthermore, if you stop juggling, the enhanced motor areas eventually shrink back to their earlier size.

The present study provides evidence that, in monkeys, the amount of social exposure (exposure to other monkeys) increases the size of cortex dedicated to social processing. In MI terms, we can say that enhanced interpersonal exposure has neural consequences and, by argument, also increases interpersonal intelligence. Note that it is possible, these days, to control the environment of monkeys in a way that we would not be allowed to do with human beings of any age. The authors go on to speculate that perhaps dedicated engagement with Facebook, or other social media, might also be reflected in the psychology and neurology of the individual(s) involved. I’d point out, however, that sheer contact with loads of members of your species does not equate with deeper or more appropriate knowledge of those individuals—be they monkeys or other primates.  In some cases, more neurons simply means, more neurons.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.