The 9 Types of Intelligence

One of the smartest people I know can’t spell worth beans (or, benes as I am pretty sure she would write) and has a particular way of pronouncing foreign-based words (sorbet is soibert; café au lait is coffee oh loddy). Meanwhile, my friend who can speak five languages is entirely flummoxed when it comes time to calculate the tip for a waiter.

So what’s going on with these two brainiacs—am I, simply, surrounded by idiot savants?  Not according to Dr. Howard Gardener who developed the theory of multiple intelligences, going beyond the IQ test to discover the many ways humans are smart.  He identified intelligent abilities including language, music, spatial reference, kinesthesia, naturalistic, and possibly existential intelligence. Gardner’s definitions include ways to improve your weaker areas—strengthening your brain. Learning—even about learning—reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s says the American Academy of Neurology.

These are Gardner’s nine types of intelligence, as described in A Better Brain at Any Age (Conari, 2009) by Sondra Kornblatt.:

1. Linguistic intelligence reflects the ability to read, write, tell stories, and learn languages, grammar, and syntax. Strengthen this ability by studying a new language, improving vocabulary, and writing.

2. Your friendly computer programmer has logical-mathematical intelligence. She’s comfortable with numbers, logic, reasoning, and abstractions. To increase logical ability, get a book of logic games, knit a sweater, and learn computer programming. Or watch a movie on video, and stop it to predict what will happen.

3. Those with strong musical intelligence are sensitive to sounds, tones, rhythms, pitch, musical keys, and structure of the songs (from verse and chorus to symphonies). Borrow different types of music CDs, sing with the radio, be quiet and listen to the sounds around you.

4. Those with strong spatial intelligence can imagine, understand, and represent the visual-spatial world. They may have a good sense of direction, hand-eye coordination, and visual memory. Some people, for instance, can visualize how furniture fits in a room without measurements, or buy a scarf that matches the blue in a blouse at home (perfect “chromatic pitch”). To strengthen your spatial intelligence, be a backseat driver and provide directions for a trip, fit the groceries in the bag or the car, play with jigsaw puzzles and mazes, build some Lego’s, or sculpt some clay.

5. Remember Gene Kelly performing “Gotta Dance!” in Singing in the Rain? He had bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, as do athletes, builders, actors, or surgeons (if they have fine motor skills). Yoga is a great way to increase this ability. Make crafts or build, ride a bike, dance, and learn tai chi or other sports.

6. Someone with interpersonal intelligence is good at organizing people and is aware of moods and motivations. He or she can communicate and lead well. To get more people skills, practice active listening—that is, repeat back what you think someone said. Learn about the types of personalities with the Myers-Briggs test (psychological preferences such as extraversion and introversion) or the Enneagram (a theory of nine personality types—possibly centuries old).

7. Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to be self-aware and explore emotions, goals and motivations. This perspective on the human condition is used by writers, philosophers, psychologists, and theologians. To improve your intrapersonal intelligence, “know thyself”—write in a journal, meditate, try the personality tests mentioned above.

8. Individuals with green thumbs and “horse whisperers” have naturalistic intelligence. They are sensitive to nature and may easily recognize and classify species. To get more naturalistic intelligence, expose yourself to the great outdoors: plant a seed, volunteer at an animal shelter, take a walk with a naturalist at the park, read about classifications of animals (kids’ books can be a great place to start).

9. Spiritual or existential intelligence fits all Dr. Gardner’s criteria except for association with a specific brain specialization—though this intelligence could be a whole-brain function. Those with this ability explore questions about life, death, and what lies beyond the subjective perspective. Prayer and meditation increase whole-brain communication and lessen the blood flow to the parietal lobes (which give a subjective sense of time and space). Explore what lies beyond through inquiry, reading, or talking with others.

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JD She
JD Sheabout a year ago


Anteater Ants
Anteater Antsabout a year ago

We anteaters are the greatest LINGUISTS among the animals!

Lady Kaira
Lady Kaira1 years ago

interesting thank you

Lori R
Lori R.1 years ago

Good article.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper1 years ago


Janis K.
Janis K.1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Carole R.
Carole R.1 years ago

My favorite kind of intelligence? Common sense. It seems to be lacking in so many these days.

Laura R.
Laura R.1 years ago

very interesting. I am definetly of the spatial type. But I am really bad at dealing with people.

Mike H.
Mike H.1 years ago

I think there are many more than nine.

Anne K.
Anne K.1 years ago

Thank you!