Intelligence is Not Uni-Dimensional

When we think of intelligence, we tend to think of cognition as being uni-dimensional. In high school, we are told about the two hemispheres of the brain – one that processes logic and reasoning, and the other that processes creative thinking and abstraction. When you look at all the literature on the subject, you will find that most of us do not make use of even a fraction of our capacity. Sorry, it has little to do with genetics and a lot to do with practice – or more accurately, the lack of it.

The fact is intelligence has many dimensions. In his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner identified nine types of intelligence. Though some scholars have attempted to expand the concept further, we would do well to understand the nine types first. This insight is invaluable in appreciating the uniqueness of each individual and in explaining how and why some people are exceptional in certain fields of human endeavor.

  1. Naturalistic Intelligence

Naturalistic intelligence refers to our sensitivity to the natural world. Some of you have a propensity to instantly connect with animals. Others can spend hours tending to plants. Yet others find mountains fascinating. In our evolution to the present state, naturalistic intelligence probably played a key role since farming and hunting were among our first vocations. The celebrity chefs, veterinarians, and adventure enthusiasts would score high on this dimension.

2. Musical Intelligence

Ever wondered why certain types of music make us happy while others bring tears without our being aware of it? It has to do with musical intelligence – the ability to assimilate, interpret, and be moved by sound based on tone, timbre, pitch, and rhythm. Though not fully understood, emotions and music appear to be closely related, as indeed do mathematics and music. (A musical verse composed over a thousand years ago defines the Fibonacci Series!)

3. Logical – Mathematical Intelligence

Do you still remember polynomials or trigonometry? Have you won debating contests? Congratulations. You are endowed with logical-mathematical intelligence. Shakuntala Devi could multiply and divide two numbers, each having over thirty digits, faster than the then prevailing first-generation computers. Since our educational system is heavily biased towards mathematics and science, it should not come as a surprise that most “intelligence tests” measure only this type of intelligence.

4. Existential Intelligence

Why are people born? Why are some people poor while others are rich? Why do some people live up to a 100 years while others don’t see their first birthday? What happens after death? Not the kind of questions most of us ponder to ask. This is the domain of philosophers. Existential intelligence is also called spiritual or moral intelligence.

5. Inter-Personal Intelligence

How well can you get along with others? How often do you start a conversation with a stranger on an aircraft or a train? Interpersonal intelligence makes for excellent communicators with a temperament to listen to different points of view. Politicians, social workers, actors, and teachers are supposed to be high on this type of intelligence.

6. Kinesthetic Intelligence

The next time you see a dancer effortlessly bending back to touch her toes, you are observing kinesthetic intelligence – the ability to be fluid and graceful in our movements. If you have a high kinesthetic intelligence, your mind-body co-ordination is likely to be flawless. Dancers, surgeons, and athletes score high on this type.

7. Linguistic Intelligence

Linguistic intelligence involves the capacity to think in words and articulate them in a way as to be understood by others. If you enjoy crossword puzzles, storytelling, reading, and writing, you will probably score high on linguistic intelligence. Public speakers, novelists, poets, and journalists make up the top on this dimension.

8. Intra-Personal Intelligence

While inter-personal intelligence has to do with how we react to others, intra-personal intelligence is the ability to understand oneself, to set clear goals, and to pursue them with single-minded devotion. If you are highly self-motivated and shy, you belong here. Philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual leaders belong to this category.

9. Spatial Intelligence

Can you think in three dimensions? Are you highly creative? Dynamic imagination, image manipulation and mental imagery are at the heart of spatial intelligence. When young, such people tend to be attracted towards jigsaw puzzles and mazes. Architects, sculptors, painters, and pilots demonstrate high levels of spatial intelligence.

Please do remember that only some of the most difficult tests such as The Final Test and Chimera Oblique are designed to measure all the types of intelligence.

Intuitively, how do you measure on the nine types of intelligence?

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