Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The meaning of the concept of intelligence has been in debate since the 19th century. Over time, it has varied, depending on the social, scientific and cultural changes that make up the history of the world as we know it nowadays. However, it was not until 1900, in Paris, France, that scientists Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon responded to a petition from the French Ministry of Education. This request consisted of developing a test, whose primary purpose was to give a prediction about which children would succeed and in turn, which would not, in the primary grades of the Parisian schools. Out of this grounding emerged what we know today as the intelligence test.

As a consequence of this event, different debates arose, while at the same time, was an increase in the exaggerated desire to measure people's intellectual quotient, called IQ by William Stern. As expected, this exam reached America, becoming a success in the psychological field. It extended to the point that nowadays it is used to measure the intellectual quotient of each person. With the discovery of these instruments, the debates and discussions intensified, about how measurable the intelligence could be and what methodology would be the appropriate one to measure it.

However, before proceeding, we have to ask ourselves: What is intelligence? Is there only one? Are we all intelligent?

When looking for the definition of intelligence in the Google search, we find the following:

"The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills."

But is this the accepted definition in all fields of study?

To our surprise, no. In 1983, the psychologist of the University of Harvard, Howard Gardner developed a theory based on the concept of intelligence, totally different from what his colleagues, in the field of psychology, had stipulated. This theory is known as the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Since its publication in his book "Frames of Mind," Gardner has awakened the interest in researchers and educators towards the study and application of the theory in the classroom.

Gardner defines intelligence as "the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings."

This new definition implies other characteristics and behaviors. It changes the perspective of being straight and indisputable, to be a perspective with greater flexibility and access to all cultures. We must take notice of the different points concerning the theory. The first is not all people are the same, there are differences. The second is not all people have the same kind of mind and, finally, the third point; education becomes more effective when these previous points are considered.

Here we present the intelligences proposed by Gardner:

  • Verbal-linguistic - ability to understand, use and manipulate written or spoken words.
  • Logical-mathematical - ability to use reasoning and numbers correctly.
  • Visual-spatial - is defined by the sensitivity a person have to colors, lines, shapes, space, and the relationships that exist between these elements.
  • Musical - ability to perceive, distinguish, transform, express sounds and musical forms.
  • Corporal-kinesthetic - ability to solve problems or make products using the body or parts of it.
  • Intrapersonal - helps people differentiate their feelings to build mental models of themselves while making decisions about their lives.
  • Interpersonal - ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, and how to work with them cooperatively.
  • Naturalist - ability to appreciate, categorize, classify, explain and connect the things of everyday life with nature.

The implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences have caused a significant impact on the educational approaches of the world. Many schools and educational centers have implemented a teaching curriculum and structures based on the theory. Some of the countries, which currently have schools based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences are Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Denmark, Holland, India, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. In these schools, students have the opportunity to develop their learning in different areas, while demonstrating their abilities.

For more information go to 8 Ways of Learning: Guide to Understand Multiple Intelligences


Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. Alexandria: ASCD.

Bartolomei-Torres, P. (2016). Aplicación e impacto de la teoría de inteligencias múltiples en la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras (Máster). Universidad de Granada.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (1987). Beyond the IQ: Education and Human Development. Harvard Educational Review, 57(2), 187-196. doi: 10.17763/haer.57.2.1210118834750615

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple inteligences. New York: Basic Books.

Stern, W. (1912). The Psychological Methods of Intelligence Testing. Baltimore: Warwick and York.