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Theories of multiple intelligence contend that intelligence cannot be measured by a single factor.
Review the major theories of multiple intelligences
Savant syndrome demonstrates how an individual who appears to be intellectually deficient, based on traditional definitions of intelligence, can display exceptional abilities in a specific area or areas.
Howard Gardner identified eight specific intelligences (including bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, spatial, intrapersonal, interpersonal, musical, naturalist, and logical-mathematical) and two additional tentative ones (spiritual and existential).
Robert Sternberg's Triarchic Theory divides intelligence into three dimensions that work together: componential, experiential, and contextual.
Today, the most widely accepted theory of intelligence is the "three stratum theory," which recognizes that there are three different levels of intelligence, all governed by the top level, g, or general intelligence factor. However, there are alternate theories of multiple intelligence which are useful in their own way for delineating certain intellectual skill sets which vary between people. Additionally, certain individuals, such as those with savant syndrome, do not fit into traditional definitions of intelligence; multiple intelligence theory can offer a helpful way of understanding their situations.
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 very diverse end results. Gardner identified eight specific intelligences and two additional tentative ones:
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: the control and use of one's body (e.g., dance, sports, art, primitive hunting, etc.)
Linguistic intelligence: the use of language and communication
Spatial intelligence: visual perceptions and manipulations (e.g., packing items into a box, reading a map, etc.)
Intrapersonal intelligence: knowing oneself, emotional awareness, motivations, etc.
Interpersonal intelligence: discerning the emotions and motivations of others
Musical intelligence: competencies related to rhythm, pitch, tone, etc., and areas related to composing, playing, and appreciating 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 organizes intelligence into three dimensions that work together: componential, experiential, and contextual.
The componential dimension includes an individual's mental mechanisms, and is composed of 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 a 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 eventual automation of processes. Finally, the contextual dimension examines how individuals adapt to, shape, and select the external world around them.
Savant syndrome identifies individuals who are considered to be intellectually deficient, yet have extremely well-developed talents or skills in a specific area, often art, music, or math. For example, Kim Peek is a savant who was born with considerable brain damage including an enlarged head, a missing corpus callosum (the fibers that connect the two hemispheres of the brain), and a damaged cerebellum. Peek scored at below average intelligence when tested, and he had difficulty with gross and fine motor activities. But Peek's savant abilities were demonstrated through his ability to read and memorize material extremely quickly. He was reported to read books two pages at a time, reading the right side with this right eye and the left side with his left eye. He was capable of memorizing the material as he read.
Savant syndrome demonstrates that an individual who appears to be intellectually deficient based on 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, he would be considered to be very gifted in a subtype of intelligence, such as linguistics.