Howard Gardner - Multiple Intelligences and Frames of Mind: Overview

Instructor: Gary Gilles

Gary has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and has been teaching and developing courses in higher education since 1988.

Howard Gardner pioneered a new way of thinking about intelligence that is unconventional but well received. His theory has practical application for how we go about learning new skills and choosing the type of work we find most satisfying. Learn more about Howard Gardner and the different types of intelligences, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Howard Gardner
Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner is a psychologist and professor of neuroscience at Harvard University and is best known for developing the theory of Multiple Intelligences. His popular 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, explains his theory in detail.

What Is Meant by Multiple Intelligences?

Multiple Intelligences
Multiple Intelligences

Gardner's research led him to the conclusion that people don't have just one type of mental intelligence (the kind that is typically measured by an IQ test). Instead, he believes that we all possess nine different types of intelligence that can be observed and measured in daily life. These intelligences reflect the different ways we interact with the world. For example, a child who is able to quickly learn his multiplication tables is no more or less intelligent than a similar-aged boy who can do amazing tricks on a skate board. The one boy has a mathematical intelligence while the other an athletic type of intelligence. Both are types of intelligence but use different sets of skills.

How Frames of Mind Breaks New Ground

Gardner's theory breaks with traditional views that assume intelligence is a genetically endowed trait and is primarily measured by a cognitive test. The conventional view places a heavy emphasis on the academic skills of linguistic and mathematical intelligence and downplays the abilities of people who exhibit other types of intelligence, such as artists, musicians, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs and others. By broadening out the definition of intelligence, Gardner says it is not a question of whether a person is intelligent but in what way he or she is intelligent.

What Are the Nine Intelligences?

Although Gardner believes that every person has all nine intelligences, each person has a unique profile of how these intelligences fit together, similar to your own unique fingerprint. The goal is to identify your dominant intelligence and use that avenue for learning new skills and finding the type of work that is most satisfying.

Here are the nine types of intelligences along with occupational matches for each:

Linguistic Intelligence

People who have linguistic intelligence have the ability to use language well to express their thoughts and ideas. They would typically be good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words. Occupationally, you might find a linguistically intelligent person working as a writer, speaker, lawyer, orator, or translator.


When people are strong in logical-mathematical intelligence, they have the ability to understand the underlying principles of cause and effect or to see logical relationships between ideas, numbers or concepts. These people would be very competent at math, creative problem-solving, organizing, logical reasoning and investigating new ideas. A logical-mathematically intelligent person would naturally gravitate toward working as a scientist, mathematician, accountant, or engineer.

Musical Intelligence

People with musical intelligence have an ability to quickly pick up rhythms, hear patterns and tones, and/or express themselves through singing or playing an instrument. They learn best through auditory means, such as lectures or conversations. They typically are thinking about, listening to or playing music as much as time allows. They are often able to create new music and reproduce music that they hear. Likely occupations include musician, music teacher, music composer, and opera singer.

Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence

When individuals have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, they are inclined to use their bodies to accomplish a task. This group gravitates to activities that allow them to solve problems by moving around and becoming physically involved. Careers that allow people with this type of intelligence to flourish include athletics, the performing arts (dancing, acting), construction, law enforcement, and the military.

Spatial Intelligence

When people have spatial intelligence, they have the ability to internally represent objects or associations between objects using the mind's eye. For example, a good chess player has the ability to spatially plot out several, if not a dozen or more, moves ahead. Spatial intelligence would also enable an artist or architect to mentally visualize what an image looks like before he or she reproduces it on paper. Occupations suited for a person with spatial intelligence might include artists, engineers, architects, sculptors, and builders.

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