Multiple Intelligences

The Eight Intelligences (Also Called SMARTS)

“According to Gardner, an effective education builds a bridge between the content being taught and the students in the classroom: On the one hand, educators need to recognize the difficulties students face in attaining genuine understanding of important topics and concepts. On the other hand, educators need to take into account the differences among minds and, as far as possible, fashion an education that can reach the infinite variety of students (Gardner 1999, p. 186). Gardner (1983) emphasizes that an intelligence is most accurately thought of as a potential, and the various intelligences are sets of “know-how”—or ways of doing things. Most culturally valued tasks involve putting more than one intelligence into practice. For instance, lawyers must be well-practiced at writing briefs (linguistic intelligence), developing arguments (logical-mathematical), public speaking, and persuading a jury (bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, and interpersonal). Similarly, concert pianists not only rely on musical intelligence, but must also rely on bodily-kinesthetic skills to develop their manual dexterity, as well as their intrapersonal skills to express the meaning of a piece of music (Kornhaber, Kreshevsky, & Gardner, 1990). The following definitions describe each intelligence and the related occupations and directions an intelligence might take. These are by no means the only examples, nor does the development of any one intelligence suggest the exclusion of others. All healthy people possess all the intelligences, which they blend in various ways when they create products or perform meaningful roles or tasks.

  • Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)—Linguistic intelligence involves the ability to communicate and use language in a variety of ways—through speaking, writing, and reading. This intelligence includes a sensitivity to the meaning of words, the order of words, and the sounds and rhythm of words. Poets, journalists, and speechwriters exhibit strengths in this intelligence. Students who enjoy playing with language, telling stories, and who quickly acquire foreign languages exhibit linguistic intelligence.
  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)—We put into practice musical intelligence when we create and perceive sound patterns. Musical intelligence includes a sensitivity to pitch (melody), rhythm, and the qualities of a tone (Gardner, 1983). Composers, singers, conductors, and musicians exhibit this intelligence, as do poets and others who use word sounds and rhythms in their writing. Students who sing well, enjoy making rhythmic sounds, and can distinguish between notes are displaying musical intelligence.
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)—Logical-mathematical intelligence is involved when we order objects, assess their quantity, and make statements about the relationships among them. Scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers all display strength in these areas. You can observe this intelligence in students who can carry out complex calculations in their heads, enjoy finding patterns in shapes and numbers, and excel at making logical arguments.
  • Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)—We use spatial intelligence when we perceive a form or object (either visually or through touch), when we remember visual or spatial information, and when we recognize and imagine objects from different angles (Gardner, 1985). Spatial ability is often assessed by having people copy shapes or match one visual image with another. Architects, mechanics, and engineers possess strong spatial abilities. Spatial intelligence can be observed in students who understand and can create visual images of their understanding— like charts, diagrams, or maps—as well as students who are drawn to the visual arts.
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)—Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is visible when people use their bodies to create products or solve problems. Athletes, surgeons, dancers, choreographers, and craftspeople display competency in this area. Students strong in bodily-kinesthetic abilities show good coordination and gross motor skill—on the stage or playing field—or the fine motor skills involved in making models or sculptures. Interpersonal intelligence—People exhibit interpersonal intelligence when they display an awareness or sensitivity to others’ feelings and intentions. Teachers, parents, politicians, psychologists, and salespeople rely on interpersonal intelligence in their work. Students exhibit this intelligence when they collaborate well, when they show thoughtfulness and sensitivity toward their friends, and when they interact with ease with others of all ages.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (people smart)—Intrapersonal intelligence helps individuals to “distinguish among their own feelings, to build accurate mental models of themselves, and to draw on these models to make decisions about their lives”(Kreshevsky & Siedel, 1998, p. 20). Therapists and religious leaders may exhibit strength in this intelligence. Students who understand their strengths and weaknesses, have an awareness of their own emotional states, and are thoughtful when they make decisions about their lives are displaying intrapersonal intelligence. [See Session 5, Emotions and Learning, for a more in-depth discussion of “emotional intelligence” (Goleman, 1995).]
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)—Finally, naturalistic intelligence allows people to recognize and classify species and other aspects of their environment. Farmers, gardeners, botanists, geologists, florists, and archaeologists all exhibit this intelligence. Students who enjoy studying the world around them—insects, cars, or stamps— display strength in this intelligence.”


Developed by Linda Darling-Hammond, Kim Austin, Ira Lit, and Daisy Martin With Contributions From Howard Gardner (available at: