Monique West, LCSW-R
Changing The Face Of Intelligence
Standard intelligence has been commonly defined as practical mathematical logical intelligence. We have all subjected to standardized test in our formal education years in which our intelligence has been based on how well we solve math equations and critical think through complicated science based experiments to derive at an air tight formulation. Our concept of a sense of self and identity begins to get molded very early on in our lives by how well we compete with our peers. Teachers in grade school are able to quickly ramble off the list of names of students who are “gifted” and those who are not. And “gifted” usually means highly intelligent in linear logic. The problem with our standard viewpoint on intelligence is that it completely disregards other types of smarts and strengths.
In 1983 Robert Gardner introduced the idea of multiple intelligence in which he proposed various types of intelligence:
Naturalist Intelligence (“Nature Smart”)
Designates the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations, etc). Botanist and archaeologist have high nature smarts.
Musical Intelligence (“Musical Smart”)
Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone. This intelligence enables us to recognize, create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive listeners.
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“Number/Reasoning Smart”)
Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complete mathematical operations. Logical intelligence is usually well developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives.
Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how did we get here.
Interpersonal Intelligence (“People Smart”)
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and interact effectively with others. It involves effective verbal and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives. Teachers, social workers, actors, and politicians all exhibit interpersonal intelligence.
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“Body Smart”)
Bodily Kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union. Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic intelligence.
Linguistic Intelligence (“Word Smart”)
Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. Linguistic intelligence allows us to understand the order and meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect on our use of language. Linguistic intelligence is most evident in poets, novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers.
Intra-personal Intelligence (“Self Smart”)
Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such knowledge in planning and directing one’s life. Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of the self, but also of the human condition. It is evident in psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers.
Spatial Intelligence (“Picture Smart”)
Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and an active imagination. Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and architects all exhibit spatial intelligence.
As we begin to re-define intelligence and what it means to be considered ‘smart’ I think it is important to begin to create new labels for our children (and for ourselves) to strengthen their sense of self and improve their confidence levels. In my individual sessions with children who struggle with learning disorders they usually struggle to see themselves as intelligent beings because of their often very challenging experiences in school which has invalidated their own brand of intelligence. I work deliberately in sessions to introduce this concept of multiple types of intelligence to begin to have them re-conceptualize how they are in fact uniquely smart. I challenge them to find at least two intelligence category in which they are strong and begin to build on this concept and help them begin to understand how their unique intelligence can be useful and respected in general. Children often discount intelligences based in spatial or Kinesthetics but reminding them that Picasso had strong spatial intelligence and Michael Jordon has remarkable Kinesthetic intelligence often puts things into perspective for them.
Beginning to challenge your children’s concept of intelligence can give light to more creative, self assured and confident children.