Theories of multiple intelligence arose when some psychologists became critical of the assessment of intelligence based upon a single factor. Additionally, certain individuals, such as those with savant syndrome, did not fit into traditional molds of intelligence.
Savant syndrome identifies an individual who is considered to be intellectually deficient, yet has an extremely developed talent or skill in a particular area. These areas often include things such as art, music, or math. Kim Peek, for example, is a savant who was born with considerable brain damage that included an enlarged head, missing corpus collosum (the fibers that connect the two hemispheres of the brain), and damaged cerebellum (Figure 1). Peek scored at below average intelligence when tested, and he had difficulty with gross and fine motor activities. Peek’s savant abilities, however, were demonstrated through his ability to read and memorize material extremely quickly. Peek was reported to read through books two pages at a time, reading the right side with this right eye and the left side with his left eye, and he memorized the material as he read.
Savant syndrome demonstrates that an individual who appears to be intellectually deficient based upon more traditional definitions of intelligence can display exceptional abilities in a specific area or areas. If a savant such as Peek was measured by Gardner’s multiple intelligence theory (discussed below), he would be associated with having intelligences related to his abilities, such as linguistics.
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory
In 1983, Howard Gardner proposed a view of multiple intelligences from which our thoughts and behaviors develop. According to Gardner’s theory, these intelligences can emerge singularly or can mix in a variety of ways to achieve a diversity of end results. Gardner identified eight specific intelligences and two additional tentative ones:
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: the control and use of one’s body through dance, sports, art, primitive hunting, etc.
- Linguistic intelligence: the use of language and communication.
- Spatial intelligence: visual perceptions and manipulations; involves activities such as packing items into a box, reading a map, etc.
- Intrapersonal intelligence: knowing one’s self, emotional awareness, motivations, etc.
- Interpersonal intelligence: discerning the emotions, motivations, etc. of others.
- Musical intelligence: competencies related to rhythm, pitch, tone, etc. and areas related to composing, playing, and feeling music.
- Naturalist intelligence: discerning patterns in nature.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence: numerical abilities and logical thinking.
- Spiritual intelligence: (tentative) recognition of the spiritual.
- Existential intelligence: (tentative) concern with ultimate state of being.
Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence
In 1986, Robert Sternberg proposed a Triarchic Theory of intelligence. His theory divides intelligence into three dimensions that work together: componential, experiential, and contextual.
The componential dimension include an individual’s mental mechanisms, and is divided into three parts:
- Metacomponents: processes used in planning, monitoring, and evaluating the performance of a task. These direct all other mental activities.
- Performance components: strategies in executing the task.
- Knowledge acquisition components: processes involved in learning new things.
The experiential dimension involves the way that individuals deal with the internal and external world. This dimension looks at how individuals deal with novelty and the automatization of processes. Finally, the contextual dimension examines how individuals adapt to, shape, and select the external world around them.