Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Many people know about the four styles of learning. But, in 1983, Howard Gardner, Ph.D., professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, introduced a new way of understanding children and how they process and retain information. He developed a theory of multiple intelligences. Now, nine different types of intelligences are included. Rather than simply dubbing a person as smart or not, this theory suggests that we each possess a different intellectual composition, a mix of the multiple intelligences in varying degrees. These different intelligences are rooted in different areas of the brain and can be strengthened over time.

The introduction of Gardner’s theory presents new possibilities in the field of education. He challenges traditional views of intelligence and has helped teachers and administrators understand that these different types of intelligences are dynamic.

In Gardner’s view, a learning style is the typical way in which an individual approaches a range of materials. However, intelligence refers to how an individual processes or computes information. For example, a person who demonstrates strong linguistic intelligence is able to easily compute information that involves language. These are different ways of looking at your child’s individual strengths and differences. If you have a child with special needs, the theory of multiple intelligences may be particularly helpful in viewing your child in new ways.

Here are the nine types of intelligence:

Type of Intelligence



Strong verbal abilities, sensitivity to the sounds, meaning, order, and rhythm of words
(Highly developed in writers and editors)


Ability to think in a conceptual and abstract manner, exhibit strength in mathematics and other complex logical systems
(Highly developed in lawyers, computer programmers, and scientists)


Ability to understand and create music
(Highly developed in musicians, composers, and dancers)


Ability to “think in pictures,” to visualize the world accurately and abstractly, and recreate (or alter) it in the mind or on paper
(Highly developed in artists, architects, designers, and sculptors)


Ability to use one’s body in a skilled way, for self-expression or toward a goal and handle objects with skill
(Highly developed in mimes, dancers, basketball players, and actors)


Ability to perceive and understand other individuals – their moods, desires, and motivations.
(Highly developed in political and religious leaders, skilled parents, teachers, and therapists)


An understanding of one’s own emotions. Self-aware and in tune with one’s own feelings, values, and thinking processes
(Highly developed in writers and therapists who may use their own experiences to guide others.)

The following were added later to reflect Gardner’s growing understanding of the theory:

Links & Resources »


Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Edwards, L. (2002). The Creative Arts: A Process Approach for Teachers and Children. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.