A Collection of Questions, New and Old, that Howard Gardner has Received and Responded To
Most questions about MI can be found by reviewing this PDF of FAQs, compiled by Howard Gardner.
On occasion, Howard Gardner will receive an interesting or novel question about MI. These unique correspondences are what follow:
Dear Professor Howard Gardner
I’m a reporter from Vietnam writing a story about two Vietnamese authors who mentioned your theory of multiple intelligences in their book. Inspired by your theory, they developed an idea that we can use games to educate children, in that different kinds of games can help children develop their multiple intelligences. Each game developed by the authors can help develop correlative intelligence, and through these games, parents also come to know what kind of intelligence their children have.
For example, to develop linguistic intelligence, parents can instruct their children to play with flashcards with vocabulary, telling stories and reading books. If the children play the games well or are interested in them, they may have strong linguistic intelligence.
To complete my story, I have some questions for you.
1. What do you think about implementing your theory of multiple intelligences in education in Vietnam?
2. What do you think about developing children’s intelligences through games?
3. What do you think about separating the games in groups to develop different kinds of intelligences?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Reporter in Vietnam
Dear Reporter in Vietnam,
Thanks for your note. I’m very happy to learn of your interest in MI and my work. The idea that you describe concerning games is interesting, but I don’t accept the premise entirely. The games may indicate what the child likes, but not necessarily in what areas he/she performs well. Also, especially when one is young, one’s intelligences are quite changeable. As a parent, I’d want to improve the performance with various intelligences, and not simply assume that an initial poor performance means anything. The great Russian psychologist Vygotsky talked about the importance of ‘the zone of proximal development’: not how well do you do initially, but how quickly you improve and how much help/scaffolding you need to improve significantly.
Finally, with respect to your third question, we can assume that a game features a specific intelligence, but we cannot know which intelligence(s) the child actually uses unless we do a separate study. So, for example, a game might be designed for the use of spatial intelligence, but in fact the child might approach it using linguistic or logical intelligence; or the child might use spatial intelligence in a game meant to be musical or bodily-kinesthetic.
With best wishes,
Dear Mr. Gardner,
I have been studying MI theory for quite a while and would like to acknowledge your ideas, which around a decade ago inspired some thoughtful Lithuanian educators to open a preschool that became distinct for its enriched environment, open-minded pedagogues, diversity of learning/playing tools and materials, and meaningful, individual-centered curriculum, comprising and integrating various domains.
Would you mind clarifying several things for me?
1) I am aware that morality and humor are not considered as separate intelligences. However, it is of high importance to nurture moral sense in children. Should we include morality as a component of interpersonal education (morality makes sense only with existence of others), or place an additional emphasis on morality separate from the intelligences?
2) If a child shows exceptional abilities in discriminating smells, creativity in mixing smells, or has an outstanding sense of taste, to which intelligence should we refer? Olfaction and gustation do not have representations in neocortex as vision or hearing, but are processed in forebrain structures. At the same time, these senses do contribute to a certain type of problem solving,and they can cause product fashioning (perfume, flavors, etc.).
3) Why shouldn’t we reconsider “technical” intelligence? The usage of tools might be a separate computational system, as each device being used “gets” its own representation in the brain, no matter if we wear high-heels, or drive a car. This gadget-body integration is worth revision in terms of intelligence. Sending you a link for a review: http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/528141/the-thought-experiment/ .
Thank you for your time spent on addressing my inquiries.
Educator in Lithuania
Thank you for your note and your interest in multiple intelligences. I am glad to hear of your work in this area, and I have tried to answer your questions below:
1. Morality is a general emphasis on the value “normative” dimension of life—any intelligence can be used in a moral/ethical or immoral/unethical way.
2. As for unusual sensory capacities, this is not something that I have investigated; intelligences operate on information, irrespective of which sensory organs (transducers) are stimulated. Thus, language intelligence is activated, whether the information arrives via eye, ear, or fingertips. So the question is not “Are the taste buds stimulated?”, but rather what use one makes of the discriminations thereby enabled. And naturalist intelligence or logical intelligence are but two of the intelligences that could be enabled…
3. I have often thought about technological intelligence, but our tools change so dramatically—most of them are digital now—that I doubt that a separate intelligence is involved.
With best wishes,
Dear Howard Gardner,
I am studying your theory of multiple intelligences. I am in 7th grade and am doing a TEDx Talk at my school, which is a presentation of any topic of my choice. I am informing the audience about your theory and explaining how SATs and other tests only test a few of the intelligences. Could I ask a couple questions regarding the talk?
1. What were your personal experiences that led to coming up with this theory?
2. What are ways SATs and ISEE tests can include parts of each intelligence?
3. What sort of world will the future be if we start informing young students about each intelligence and teach them things about each intelligence, not only a few?
4. How do you define intelligence and how do SAT creators define it?
Middle School Student
Dear Middle School Student,
Thanks for your note, and I’m glad to hear about your upcoming talk. Here are some brief responses to your questions:
1. I am sending you a few articles that tell about how I developed MI theory (click here).
2. Multiple choice tests can’t tap the different intelligences effectively—you need to look directly at ability. For example, the way to test spatial intelligence is to see whether a person can learn quickly to navigate around an unfamiliar territory. That said, you could probably improve standardized tests so that they surveyed at least certain aspects of some of the other intelligences.
3. From teachers all over the world, I’ve learned that students love to learn about the several intelligences. However, schools and countries vary enormously in terms of how much attention they pay to intelligences other than linguistic and logical-mathematical.
4. See the articles for my definitions. SAT creators are reluctant to define intelligence, but it is clear to me that they are interested only in logical and linguistic intelligences.
Good luck with your presentation!
With best wishes,
I am performing bibliographic work based on your Theory of Multiple Intelligences as a part of my degree. I have a few questions for you:
1. How many books altogether have been written on the theory so far?
2. Nowadays, how many intelligences exist?
3. Is Spiritual Intelligence considered or not? Why?
4. What is the purpose of the Multiple Intelligences?
Congratulations on your excellent work.
Dear MI Inquirer,
Thanks for your note. To answer your questions, I have written three books on MI (Frames of Mind, Intelligence Reframed, and Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons). I have also co-edited Multiple Intelligences Around the World about the use of MI theory in various countries across the globe.
There are hundreds of other books in many languages about MI; I don’t keep track of them. My book Intelligence Reframed, published in 1999, had a reasonably complete bibliography, but that was over 15 years ago! The same book explains why I do NOT believe that there is a spiritual intelligence (see chapters 4 and 5).
The psychological purpose of MI is to give an account of how the mind and the brain are organized; the educational purpose is to think about how education might be different, in view of this account of cognitive organization. As I’ve written in various books, the chief educational applications are ‘individuation’ and ‘pluralization.’
I hope that this is helpful to you.
With best wishes,
Greetings from India. I briefly went through your theory of multiple intelligences, and my question to you is how emotion affects the intelligence of a person. Like a placebo for medicine, are there any placebos that can be used to induce or stimulate intelligence in a person, thereby making him feel euphoric, and will that feeling of euphoria strengthen the brain even more expanding his intelligence? I am an undergraduate student with immense interest in understanding how a brain works. Though I have a parochial knowledge, I believe that emotions play a major role with respect to intelligence. I am eagerly waiting for your reply.
With best regards,
Emotional Intelligence in India
Dear Emotional Intelligence in India,
Thanks for your letter and your interest in multiple intelligences. Unfortunately, I do not think that there are any “placebos” that can stimulate intelligence or a feeling of happiness/euphoria. I would bet on hard work being effective for broadening intelligence rather than any magic potions or easy shortcut solutions.
With best wishes,
I am training to be a Primary School Teacher in the Netherlands. It will come as no surprise to you that your MI theory is part of our curriculum, and we are trained to design and give lessons keeping the different intelligences in mind.
I read in your piece “Multiple Intelligences After Thirty Years” in which you state, “ I concluded that there was ample evidence for a naturalist intelligence; and suggestive evidence as well for a possible existential intelligence (“the intelligence of big questions”).”
I was wondering whether you had made steps in proving (to yourself) that these intelligences (or indeed others) exist.
I understand that you must receive emails like this regularly so please be assured that I understand should you not find the time to answer.
In highest regard,
Teaching in the Netherlands
Dear Teaching in the Netherlands,
Thanks for your respectful note. To decide rigorously whether a candidate ‘counts’ as an intelligence is something that I no longer do. And so the case for ‘existential’ and ‘pedagogical’ intelligences remains in limbo, at least until someone decides to evaluate the evidence in light of the criteria laid out in Chapter 4 of Frames of Mind.
More generally, I now think that what I’ve done is open people’s eyes to the strong likelihood that the usual definitions and measures of intelligence are too narrow. They may elucidate what it takes to succeed in a certain kind of school at our time (what I call academic or scholastic intelligences) but are woefully inadequate in accounting for the full range of human intellectual/cognitive capacities.
My list of intelligences represents a serious scholarly effort to ascertain and delineate these additional cognitive capacities.
Anyone is free to nominate candidate intelligences, from humor intelligence to sexual intelligence to cooking intelligence. But to be taken seriously, the nominator needs to fulfill two criteria:
1. Have a set of criteria for what is, and what is not, an intelligence, as laid out, for example, in Frames of Mind.
2. Be sure not to confuse DESCRIPTION (how an intelligence works) with PRESCRIPTION (how we would like individuals to act, to use those intelligences). My delineation of intelligences is strictly amoral: any intelligence can be used benevolently or malevolently. How those intelligences are used is very important; my colleagues and I have devoted twenty years to studying Good Workers, Good Persons, and Good Citizens. But the use of an intelligence is a different question than the nature and operation of that intelligence.
I hope that these notes are useful to you.
With best wishes,
Dear Professor Gardner,
My work with dancers and athletes all these years may best fall into the category of (loosely) Translational Research. The work has been practice-based in the studio and on the field with the athletes. I feel that there is a story to tell and may be somewhat of an “application of multiple intelligences.”
One of the primary principles of my teaching in the dance studio has been in the development of Kinesthetic Awareness. I find an explosion of literature on the topic. My thought was to talk with you, who I consider the expert, for your definition of Kinesthetic Awareness.
My first question is: how would you define Kinesthetic Awareness? (Chapter 9 in Frames of Mind does lay this out, but I wondered how you feel it fits with a relation to dance training?)
The second question may be whether you think that Kinesthetic Awareness may actually be a “sixth sense” that elite athletes and dancers may acquire.
Sorry if this may seem rather non-academic or too simplistic, but I my thinking has been influenced by the Kuhnian notion of “revolution.” One of my seminars on “Sensual Science” works with the development of creative thinking based on nurturing an interdisciplinary thought process. “Sensual Science” is my answer to Thomas Kuhn’s reference to “Normal Science.”
Thank you once again for your kindness and assistance.
An MI Teacher
Dear MI Teacher,
Thanks for your note and questions. The most important thing for me to say is that you know infinitely more about the topic than I do, and so the most I can do is to give you a thought off the top of my head.
I would say that ‘being aware of your body and its options’ is quintessential to bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. The only hitch is that the awareness need not be conscious, and certainly not hyper-conscious. In other words, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence manifests itself whether or not the person can speak about it or conceptualize it. I’d say the same thing about any intelligence. The test is in performance per-se, not in self-awareness or articulateness.
Some bodily-kinesthetic awareness is built into our nervous system. When I injure myself, my body knows which moves to avoid whether or not I have a clue. But other bodily-kinesthetic awareness is acquired, quickly or slowly, over the course of a lifetime. When a hockey player knows exactly what move to make, to receive and send a puck in a desired direction, he/she is reacting on the basis of ‘fast thinking’—even though it may have taken 10,000 hours of practice to reach that level.
I hope that this quick note is a bit of a help to you.
With best wishes,
Hi Dr. Gardner,
I hope you are fine
You said somewhere that memory is multiple (like intelligence), but I did not get whether memory (and remembering) is a component and function of intelligence?
For example, if my learning or diagnostic abilities in the field of music is high, will my musical memory be strong also?
In some traditional sources, wise people differentiated somehow between these two (for reasons that are discussed in traditional medicine). They say: high ability in understanding is often accompanied by low memory and vice versa.
Music and Memory
Dear Music and Memory
You raise an interesting question. I’ve always claimed that a keen memory in a domain is a sign of potential high intelligence. And I do think that memory in one area—say, spatial—cannot predict memory in other area—say personal or musical. Alas, we don’t have as much empirical evidence on this point as we need.
That said, it is also true that as you become more sophisticated, you tend to recode information in ways that are most convenient, and that may diminish literal accuracy. For example, as I age, I have no trouble in remembering the gist of something, but don’t ask me to remember the literal wording. Decades ago, the situation might have been reversed.