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Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.

‘How intelligent are you?’

We like to measure each other and measuring intelligence seems particularly important to some. Its practice has a long and often unpleasant history. Harvard psychologist, Howard Gardner, has done more than anybody to challenge the ‘single measure’ approach to understanding intelligence, and has introduced a more comprehensive understanding of intelligence.

Instead, Gardner proposed that a better question is:

‘How are you intelligent?’

… in what ways? He proposed that we each have a range of intelligences, which we deploy in varying strengths. Our talents derive from combinations of these intelligences.

Gardner has worked hard to define ‘intelligence’ and set criteria for which capacities to consider as intelligences. Predictably, each of these has attracted much debate. Gardner himself has settled on eight intelligences – others propose more.

Howard Gradner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

Our ability to read, write and communicate using language, used by authors, journalists, orators, debaters and people who speak several languages.

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

This is shown by analytical thinkers who value reason and are good at calculation; people well suited to science and engineering, the law and accountancy, economics and even detective work.

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

This makes us highly aware of spatial relationships, shape, colour and form; strong in artists, architects and designers – also navigators and cartographers.

Musical and Rhythmic Intelligence

Do you listen to, make or compose music? This intelligence makes you sensitive to tone, melody, harmony and rhythm. The term virtuoso applies to people such as singers, performers, and composers who have and deploy this intelligence to a high degree.

Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence

This intelligence manifests in two ways – both linked to a precise awareness of movement, and control of our bodies.

  1. Some excel at balance and co-ordination, using their whole body with grace and power – think about sportspeople, actors and dancers.
  2. Others exercise control, but through precise use of their hands or feet, excelling in areas like sculpture, surgery, craft.

Interpersonal (Social) Intelligence

This helps us socialise and collaborate, giving an understanding of people (empathy) and helping us to put them at their ease. It accounts for confidence in making small-talk, listening intently and leading naturally. Teachers, therapists, nurses and good salespeople excel interpersonally.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

This reflects both the ability to reflect and introspect (mindfulness), and our ability to manage our own motivation, feelings and behaviour.

* For more on Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligences, take a look at this Pocketblog: There’s more to Emotional Intelligence than Daniel Goleman.

Naturalist Intelligence

Stamp collectors exhibit this intelligence in a world apart from nature: they love to collect. The naturalist has affinity for the natural world, understanding how it works and often having an uncanny knack for memorising hundreds of names. If they can, they collect – rocks, insects, photos – anything. Gardeners, pet-owners, environmentalists, and scientists exercise this intelligence. So too do the people who photograph bus, train or lorry numbers.


If we each have different strengths, then the power of a team comes from its diversity and therefore the abilities of its members to apply differences intelligences to the problems they must solve and the decisions they must take.

Gardner’s work has polarised debate in some quarters of education and psychology. Some love it; it fits with their world view, making intelligence more egalitarian and recognising that there is more to learning and knowledge than literacy and numeracy. Others challenge its lack of empirical support from either well-validated testing processes or neurology.

However, many educators find plenty of support in the educational results they attain, using it to guide their teaching. For managers, this offers a powerful model of learning styles which can be applied to developing people, and a valuable way to understand why a diverse team will outperform a homogeneous one. As Gardner notes:

These intelligences are fictions – at most, useful fictions
– for discussing processes and abilities that (like all of life)
are continuous with one another.’

 Further Reading

  1. The Learner’s Pocketbook
  2. Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner, Basic Books, 4th Edition, 2011
  3. Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences, the encyclopedia of informal education, Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008),
  4. Pocketblog: There’s more to Emotional Intelligence than Daniel Goleman
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Emotional Intelligence: Getting what You Want from Yourself and Others

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional IntelligenceEmotional Intelligence may have felt like a fad in 1995, when we all rushed to buy Daniel Goleman’s book of the same name  (1996 in the UK). But from a perspective of over 20 years on, it still holds its own as a useful concept and very much fits the bill as a Big Idea.

And why not? After all, the theory of emotional intelligence is that the way we succeed in life is through our emotional connections. Firstly with ourselves and then, secondly, with others. And the idea isn’t new. After all, did not Socrates say

‘First, know thyself’

Probably not. But it’s been attributed to a host of ancient thinkers, including Aeschylus and Heraclitus.

But I digress. Emotional intelligence allows you to:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Regulate your emotions, choices, and motivation
  3. Understand the emotions of others
  4. Influence and work with them

Continue reading Emotional Intelligence: Getting what You Want from Yourself and Others

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Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences
Multiple Intelligences
Multiple Intelligences

The idea of Multiple Intelligences is the brainchild of Harvard Professor, Howard Gardner. As big ideas go, they don’t get bigger and simpler than this one.

Big, because the idea of Multiple Intelligences addresses something fundamental in all of us. It’s about our different capacities to excel in the full variety of human endeavours. It has a lot to say about how we should value the people around us, and the best way to educate our children.

Yet it is also disarmingly simple. There’s no single measure of intelligence. And neither should we reserve the label ‘intelligent’ for a narrow band of people who are simply intelligent in one of a small number of ways. Human potential expresses itself in a vast variety of forms. And so does our intelligence.

Continue reading Multiple Intelligences

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Howard Gardner: Multiple Intelligences

It’s not how intelligent you are that matters,says Dr Howard Gardner. Rather, what really matters is how you are intelligent. Howard Gardner is an eminent psychologist who gave us the theory of Multiple Intelligences, and is now working on an even bigger topic; what it means to be good.

Howard Gardner
Howard Gardner

Short Biography

Howard Gardner was born in 1943, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His parents had fled Nazi Germany before the war. He was a scholarly and musically able student and in 1961, he entered Harvard College to study Social Relations, gaining his AB in 1965. After a year spent studying Philosophy and Sociology at the London School of Economics, Gardner returned to Harvard University to study for a PhD in Social Psychology.

In 1967, during his doctoral studies, Gardner joined the new Project Zero research team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, as a research assistant. He has remained a part of that project throughout his career, becoming a director and now Senior Director of the project. As a major research centre and intellectual powerhouse for researchers into education, it has been a superb base for much of Gardner’s research and thinking.

In 1979, Gardner was among a number of Harvard researchers who collaborated in the Project on Human Potential. This opportunity led directly to Gardner fully developing and publishing the theory he is best known for. That theory is the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which he published in full, in 1983, with his book, Frames of Mind. This model has been widely welcomed in educational circles, although it has also been criticised, especially by some psychologists and researchers into intelligence. We covered multiple intelligences in an earlier article.

Gardner’s ample academic career is marked by hundreds of articles (both scholarly and popular), around 30 books, dozens of awards, a CV (dated 2012) that runs to 87 pages (!) and steady progress up the academic career ladder:

  • 1971-72: Post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School, into Aphasia
  • 1972-86: Lecturer at Harvard
  • 1986-98: Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • 1998- now: John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

In 1996, along with psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and William Damon, Gardner co-founded The GoodWork Project – now The Good Project. This collaboration researches into the meaning of good work, effective collaboration, digital citizenship, and civic participation. It sits within Harvard’s Project Zero.

Multiple Intelligences

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences continues to dominate his reputation, and justly so. Wherever you sit on the scale of critic to convert, it has clearly had an impact on education in many places. And whether the model turns out to have an underpinning in the neural structure of our brains or not, the over-arching principle – that people have different abilities in different areas – is hard to deny. If that means we are better at valuing people for their various talents, rather than deprecating their lack of ability in one or two arenas valued by a selective system, that must be a good thing.

And Gardner continues to weigh in on many big debates in educational theory;  not least the nature versus nurture debate. I suppose the biggest critique of Gardner’s approach – particularly in his work on Multiple Intelligences – is his focus on observation over experimentation. Much of his analysis results from careful intellectual (and therefore subjective) analysis of observation. But careful is the operative word. For many years, he has resisted wrapping new intelligences into his framework of eight – despite much advocacy from varying quarters. he does not find their cases compelling enough. However, his criteria are not clear and do not seem to have any testable, quantitative under-pinning.

The Good Project

In The Good Project, Gardner and his co-workers are interested to understand what makes ‘good’ work, ‘good’ education and so on. In this, he seems to be returning – with psychological and sociological methods – to the Greek fascination with what makes a good life.

Their conclusions can be summed up in three words. Being good in all the endeavours they have studied requires:

  1. Excellence
  2. Engagement
  3. Ethics

Interestingly to me, the first two very much echo the ideas Csikszentmihlyi developed in his theory of Flow.

Howard Gardner at TEDx in 2015

Here is Howard Gardner, ranging across his two primary interests; multiple intelligences, and what makes good work. You will see he refers to the work of Angela Duckworth.

You may also want to take a look at

  1. The Learner’s Pocketbook
  2. The Accelerated Learning Pocketbook



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There’s More to Emotional Intelligence than Daniel Goleman

Dr Daniel GolemanWell, the title is not a controversial statement and I am certain Dr Goleman would be the first to agree with it.  So why is it that almost all business-oriented articulations of Emotional Intelligence (EI) are founded on one or another of his models?



‘One or another’?

Goleman’s recent work identifies four components of EI, whilst his earliest writing on the subject identifies five.


Brilliant Writing

The simple answer, I suspect, is that Goleman brought the concept to the public’s awareness with his first, 5 million selling, book, and then made it an equally popular topic for business people and managers with his follow-up ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’.

Each of these books and his subsequent publications are written with a strong journalistic flair that makes them compellingly readable and highly accessible to non-psychologists.  This is clearly one reason.  But I think there is another, even stronger reason.

Alternative Models

EIPocketbookEIModelThere is a wealth of alternative models and mash-ups, including the one in The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook.  This one looks superficially like the earlier Goleman model, but combines the two social competences and introduces a new capability of ‘Emotion Coaching’.









MayerSaloveyEIModelGoleman himself acknowledges the seminal influence of Peter Salovey, whose joint paper written with John Mayer was his first introduction to the topic in 1990.  Salovey and Mayer’s thinking has evolved, and their current model (1997) sets out four branches of EI.

The difference between this model and Goleman’s arises from the authors’ mission to demonstrate that EI is a true intelligence.  This gives rise to four mental abilities, or aptitudes, that we can develop and harness to practical purposes.



You can view Goleman’s four or five competencies as practical skill sets that we can develop and put immediately to use.  Margaret Chapman takes this further with her entirely new skill set of Emotion Coaching.

It is the more practical nature of Goleman’s models that, I suspect, has made them far more popular.

A Combined Model of Emotional Intelligence

Goleman’s model clearly distinguishes the Intra-personal and the inter-personal domains (a distinction also drawn by Howard Gardner, founder of the theory of Multiple Intelligences).  Mayer and Salovey’s model resolutely does not.  So I can’t help wondering what happens if we impose this distinction upon their model.

I hasten to note that they are engaged in rigorous academic research and this new construct is little more than a whim of my own.  But here goes…


Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook

The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook contains many fine resources.  You may also like:

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Half way between New Year and Valentine’s day

Last week, I was counting basic plots and getting nowhere with the numbers game – I think if you follow all of the references in the article, you get to 18 or 54 or something in between.  I didn’t try to put a number on it.

But have you noticed how many of us like to enumerate and collect?  Mostly it’s men, I hear some of you say, but I am not so sure.  Anyway, Howard Gardner noticed this, belatedly, when he added to his original seven Multiple Intelligences an eighth: Naturalist.

Seven …
there’s another magic number to add to last week’s three:

  1. Seven samurai
  2. Seven pillars of wisdom
  3. Seven deadly sins
  4. Seven wonders of the world
  5. Seven against Thebes
  6. Seven dwarves
  7. Seven habits of highly effective people

One characteristic of the naturalist intelligence is the desire and facility to characterise, categorise and count (ooops three again!).

Let’s get Emotional

This time, I have been wondering how many emotions there are.  Two things may come to your mind: the pragmatists will say ‘but what has this to do with management?’ while the theorists will challenge ‘can you really count emotions?’

Let’s start with the theorists: counting emotions

No.  I don’t think that you can create a full count of the infinite varieties of human emotion, but I did think it may be interesting to try to list the main ones, and see where it takes me.

I started with a throwaway comment I remembered from a training course that there is a ‘big five’ set of emotions.  I can find no reference to these (unlike the ‘big five personality factors’ in any psychology books).  But I did find a Reiki Healing site, and as my NLP teachers were also reiki practitioners, I’m going to make a guess…

Anyway, this led me to:

  1. Joy
  2. Sadness
  3. Anger
  4. Fear
  5. Grief

… which are big and there are five.  But there are other big ones too.  Next stop: Claudia Hammond’s excellent ‘Emotional Rollercoaster: A Journey Through the Science of Feelings’.  Dr Hammond lists

  1. Joy
  2. Sadness
  3. Disgust
  4. Anger
  5. Fear
  6. Jealousy
  7. Love
  8. Guilt
  9. Hope

She doesn’t set out to be comprehensive, just to present fascinating research results.  The web will offer you uncountable numbers of lists, but in my £2.99 copy of the textbook ‘Psychology’ (I love charity shops), I found Plutchik’s Multi-dimensional Model of Emotions.  Oh how I love the idea of a multidimensional model!

Plutchik’s Multi-dimensional Model of Emotions, reproduced as Fig 12.1 in Psychology (Bernstein, Roy, Srull, Wickens)As you can see, Plutchik’s model has eight primary emotions which are shown next to the ones they are most like and opposite the ones that are like polar opposites.  Each has a spectrum of intensity, giving a third dimension, with the peak intensity emotions at the top.  By combining adjacent pairs, you get more complex emotions.

To see this more clearly, we need to open out the solid, and this is done in many places on the web.  Here is my favourite representation (a public domain image from Wikipedia).


You’ll notice that the two versions don’t quite match up (-  as my editor did!*).  The opened out “net” seems the more current and common articulation, with the levels on the “solid” diagram either poorly represented or from earlier thinking.

Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

What has this to do with management?

Well, firstly, if you think that emotions and management have nothing to do with one another, you’re crazy.  But my serious point is that a greater understanding of emotions seems to me to be a major gap in much management training and education.  This is even true in many workshops and courses about ‘Emotional Intelligence’.

Yet Emotional Intelligence is one of the most powerful management models of the last twenty years.  I think we can now tentatively apply the label ‘enduring’.  So we’ll be taking a deeper look over the next two weeks.


* In trying to answer my editor’s comment, I found two absolutely  fascinating articles on the web (30 minutes of displacement activity – thank you Ros) that you might like.  Plutchik’s original 1960 article is not available on the web (unless you have £23 to spare).  Anyway, check out:

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