Theory of Multiple Intelligences




Gardnerís Theory of Multiple Intelligences has attracted controversy and criticism.Here are some of the major criticisms of Gardnerís theory:


Gardnerís ideas are based more on reasoning and intuition than on the results of empirical research studies (Aiken, 1997, p.196).


Gardner argues that his theory is based wholly on empirical evidence and can be revised on the basis of new empirical findings.He says that hundreds of studies were reviewed in the development of his theory and the actual intelligences were identified and delineated on the basis of empirical findings from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology and other relevant disciplines.


All seven forms of intelligence are not of equal importance and value.In his theory, Gardner has proposed that there are seven independent and equally important forms of intelligence.Different cultures assign varying levels of importance to the types of intelligence.For example, linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences are valued most in the US and other western cultures.Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is more highly valued in cultures that depend on hunting for survival.Even within our own culture, critics doubt that all seven form of intelligence are of equal value in education and in life.Robert Sternberg asks whether an adult who is tone deaf and has no sense of rhythm can be considered mentally limited in the same way as one who has never developed any verbal skills.


Gardnerís theory does not represent new thinking on multiple constructs of intelligence.Gardnerís approach of describing the nature of each intelligence with terms such as ďabilities, sensitivities and skillsĒ indicates that his theory is a matter of semantics and resembles earlier work by factor theorists of intelligence like L.L. Thurstone that a single factor (g) cannot explain the complexity of human intellectual activity.In 1938, Thurstone identified seven primary mental abilities (verbal comprehension, numerical ability, spatial relations, perceptual speed, work fluency, memory and reasoning) that underlie all intellectual activities.According to Morgan, identifying these various abilities and developing a theory that supports the many factors of intelligence has been a significant contribution to the field.Morgan believes that Gardnerís seven intelligences might be better referred to as ďcognitive stylesĒ rather than standalone constructs of intelligence (Morgan, 1996).Sternberg claims that ďmultiple intelligences might be better referred to as multiple talentsĒ (Sternberg, 1985, p. 1114).


Gardnerís theory of multiple intelligences is not legitimate because there are not specific tests to measure the seven intelligences.


Gardner argues that a singularly psychometric approach to measuring intelligence based on paper and pencil tests is too limiting.Psychometrics is the psychological theory or technique of mental measurement. Gardner recommends that any intelligence be assessed by a number of complementary approaches that consider the several core components of an intelligence.For example, spatial intelligence might be assessed by asking people to find their way around an unfamiliar terrain, to solve an abstract jigsaw puzzle, and to construct a three-dimensional model of their home.


Gardnerís theory is incompatible with g.The concept of g is an integral part of a widely accepted theory developed by Charles Spearman (1927) that intelligence is composed of a general ability (or g factor) which underlies all intellectual functions.


Gardner argues that g has a scientific place in intelligence theory but that he is interested in understanding intellectual processes that are not explained by g.


Gardnerís theory is incompatible with genetic (heritability) or environmental accounts of the nature of intelligence.


Gardner argues that MI Theory is neutral on the question of the heritability of specific intelligences.Instead, it emphasizes the importance of genetic and environmental interactions.Although it is not the focus of his theory, Gardner speculates that each intelligence has a significant heritability.He believes that environmental factors are significant in the development of an intelligence.People who seem gifted in a particular intelligence will accomplish little if they are not exposed to materials that engage the intelligence.The more powerful the environmental interventions and available resources, the more proficient people will become and the less important will be their particular genetic inheritance.


Gardnerís theory expands the definition of intelligence beyond usefulness.


Gardner argues that a narrow definition of intelligence as equal to scholastic performance and psychometric test scores is too constrictive.Gardner believes that multiple intelligence theory is about understanding the intellect, the cognitive aspects of the human mind.He believes that it is more useful and sustainable to view the intellect from the standpoint of a number of independent intelligences than from the standpoint of test scores or scholastic performance.





The Theory|Howard Gardner|Seven Intelligences|Earlier Views|Biological Factors

Implications & Applications|Criticisms|Future Research|Images of Intelligences