The multiple facets of intelligence: A fascinating guide

Has somebody ever told you that just because they scored high on an IQ test, they are intelligent?

Well, this is indeed the most common misconception about intelligence. 

For years, people have used traditional intelligence quotients (IQ) to determine a person’s cognitive abilities.

But is it really fair to say that a person’s intelligence can be accurately measured by just one test? What if there are multiple facets to intelligence that we don’t even know about?

In this fascinating guide, I’ll delve into the multiple facets of intelligence and help you gain a deeper understanding of the human mind and how it works.

What is intelligence?

Whenever I try to define intelligence, I always struggle to come up with one comprehensive definition that combines all aspects of intelligence. 

Considering I’ve studied a lot of things at university about intelligence, people often get surprised. They probably think that I haven’t studied well enough to define one simple concept, but the truth is that intelligence isn’t such a simple concept to define in just a few words.

Instead, intelligence is considered one of the hardest concepts in cognitive psychology to define. Why?

The answer is simple — there are multiple understandings of intelligence, and it’s hard to develop a single definition that combines all aspects of it. 

Is that the reason? Is it a skill to use your judgment? Is the ability to use your knowledge to make rational decisions? Or is it the ability to adapt to new situations? 

Maybe it’s something more than this. 

The simple truth is that intelligence is a multifaceted concept that can be considered both as a skill and as an ability and refers to an individual’s cognitive abilities and capacity to learn, reason, solve problems, and think critically. 

If you’re like most people, chances are that your first association with it is IQ or intelligence quotient. But you know what?

Intelligence is not solely determined by one’s IQ score. 

In fact, many experts argue that traditional IQ tests only measure one type of intelligence, known as “crystallized intelligence,” which is based on acquired knowledge and skills.

But there’s much more than this.

Many other facets of intelligence contribute to an individual’s overall cognitive capacity. 

In fact, according to one theory that sounds the most reasonable to me, we have multiple types of intelligence that develop independently of one another.

This theory is known as Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Why do I prefer it to all the theories out there?

Because it challenged the traditional understanding of intelligence and turned this field of cognitive psychology upside down.

Let me explain why Gardner’s ideas were revolutionary and what the 8 types of intelligence are that you possess.

Gardner’s theory of multiple facets of intelligence: a closer look

Have you ever thought about the different ways in which people demonstrate intelligence? 

For example, some of us find it easy to perceive and create music, while others thrive on analyzing logical problems and performing mathematical operations.

The reason is that some of us have better-developed musical intelligence while others have better cognitive skills in solving mathematical problems.

But guess what?

This doesn’t make any of those people more intelligent than the others. 

At least, that’s the idea suggested by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences.

According to Gardner, there are many different ways in which individuals can be intelligent, and it’s important to value multiple forms of intelligence while measuring it.

And indeed – people are not born with all kinds of abilities in different fields. Gardner argues that there’s no one “g,” or general intelligence, that focuses only on cognitive abilities.

Instead, our creativity, communication skills, or spatial perception also constitute our intelligence.  

According to Gardner, there are eight different types of intelligence, and each of these types of intelligence involves unique abilities and skills.

Therefore, individuals may excel in some areas while showing less aptitude in others.

Why do I consider it revolutionary?

Because it recognized the diversity of human cognitive abilities and the importance of valuing multiple forms of intelligence. 

What’s more, this theory had practical implications, as it suggested that individuals could develop their strengths in different types of intelligence if we offered them appropriate opportunities for personal development.

What about other intelligence theories?

Well, most of them define intelligence as a single entity that can be measured by standardized tests.

That’s what makes Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences stand out — it provides a more holistic view of intelligence, recognizing that it is not solely based on cognitive abilities but also includes social, emotional, and physical dimensions.

So, let’s discuss these different dimensions and identify the 8 facets of intelligence according to Howard Gardner.

8 facets of intelligence

1) Logical-mathematical intelligence

When we think of intelligence, its logical-mathematical aspect is usually the first thing that comes to mind.

Traditionally, intelligence has been defined as the ability to think logically, analyze problems, and perform mathematical operations. 

However, now it turns out that it’s just a single facet of multiple forms of intelligence, and it’s called logical-mathematical intelligence.

People with strong logical-mathematical intelligence are often skilled at abstract and deductive reasoning.

This means that if you’ve strong skills in this type of intelligence, you’re likely to succeed in careers such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

What are some of the most typical characteristics of logical-mathematical intelligence?

  • Interest in patterns and logical explanations
  • Ability to perform complex calculations and solve mathematical problems
  • Ability to think abstractly and use logic to solve problems
  • Ability to analyze and understand complex systems

As a result, people with this type of intelligence may also excel in fields that require precise and accurate thinking, such as medicine and research.

Of course, I’m not saying that it won’t be useful in everyday life, though. Instead, the facet of intelligence can help you make informed decisions, solve problems efficiently, and understand complex systems and processes.

That’s why I believe that logical-mathematical intelligence is an important facet of human cognition and we can barely survive without basic skills in it.

2) Verbal-linguistic intelligence

Have you ever noticed that you can easily find the right words to express what you mean? 

Or maybe you enjoy reading and discussing books and articles and are able to comprehend and analyze written text quickly and accurately.

In either case, being good at expressing yourself clearly and effectively in conversation is a sign of having strong verbal-linguistic intelligence.

This type of intelligence involves the ability to use language effectively, both in speaking and writing. 

What makes people with this type of intelligence stand out?

  • Ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively
  • Good vocabulary and language skills
  • Ability to read and comprehend written text quickly and accurately
  • Ability to understand and use language to persuade and influence others

Considering this, people with strong verbal-linguistic intelligence may excel in careers such as journalism, teaching, and law.

What’s more, they may also excel in fields that require strong writing skills, such as advertising and marketing. 

And maybe that’s the reason why I’m writing this article right now as well — I never found it hard to articulate my ideas and express them in written text.

To be honest, that’s one of the most useful skills in everyday life. Personally, it always helps me to communicate effectively and express my ideas clearly.

Maybe this is one of the main reasons why people often perceive me as an empathetic individual after all — I can easily express my emotions and understand what they feel.

So as you can see, verbal-linguistic intelligence is an important facet of human cognition that involves the ability to use language effectively and understand written and spoken communication. 

3) Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

Have you ever met someone who seems to have natural grace and athleticism, or someone who can effortlessly manipulate objects and tools with their hands? 

Well, these individuals may have a strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, which is the ability to control one’s body movements and use physical skills to solve problems.

A few years ago, I struggled to coordinate my mind with my body which made my fitness experience a real mess.

But later, I realized that practice helped me to develop bodily-kinesthetic intelligence and master the ability to coordinate my body movements.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is another type of intelligence that involves the ability to control one’s body movements and use physical skills to solve problems. 

People with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are often skilled at using their bodies and hands to create, build, or repair things.

Now I’m sure that most of my friends who excel in activities that require physical coordination, such as sports, dance, or acting, have better bodily-kinesthetic intelligence than me. 

What’s more, they’re skilled at using tools and machines and enjoy working with their hands to create or fix things.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that I can’t develop skills to control my body movements and coordinate them with my body.

Depositphotos 146688291 L 1 The multiple facets of intelligence: A fascinating guide
Credit: DepositPhotos

As I’ve mentioned, all types of intelligence are skills that can be developed through mindful practice.

Here are a few examples of how bodily-kinesthetic intelligence might manifest in everyday life:

  • A dancer who can move their body gracefully and express emotions through movement
  • A carpenter who is able to use tools and machines expertly and create beautiful pieces of furniture
  • A surgeon who can use precise movements to perform delicate surgeries
  • A chef who is able to manipulate ingredients and tools with precision to create delicious dishes

Sounds impressive, right?

Well, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is a valuable skill that can be demonstrated in a wide range of everyday activities and can lead to success in careers that require physical coordination and manual dexterity.

4) Musical intelligence

Let me give you my example one more time.

Since childhood, I’ve been playing the piano and the violin and taking pleasure from them. However, I always knew that I never had a natural, “virtuoso” talent in music like my sister to discern sounds, and their pitches, or write music myself.

Later, after learning about musical intelligence in my cognitive psychology classes, I realized that maybe I just didn’t have well-developed musical intelligence back then.

In simple words, musical intelligence is the ability to perceive and create music.

It involves the ability to recognize and understand different musical forms and structures, as well as the ability to create and perform music. 

That’s the reason why my sister is good at listening to and creating music. No wonder that now she’s studying musical composition and thrives in music performance, unlike me who had better linguistic intelligence and decided to choose my career path accordingly. 

What are some characteristics of individuals with strong musical intelligence?

  • Ability to recognize and understand different musical forms and structures
  • Ability to remember and reproduce musical patterns and melodies
  • Ability to create and perform music
  • Sensitivity to pitch, rhythm, and timbre

This means that musical intelligence allows us to appreciate and enjoy music

So, if you have well-developed musical intelligence, chances are that you can appreciate and enjoy music on a deeper level.

5) Visual-spatial intelligence

Has somebody ever told you that they just can’t remember locations and often get lost as a result?

If so, chances are that visual-spatial intelligence isn’t their major facet of intelligence. 

The reason is that this type of intelligence involves the ability to perceive and manipulate visual and spatial information. 

Therefore, people with strong visual-spatial intelligence can interpret visual information and manipulate or transform visual and spatial relationships. 

What are some of the fields where people with strong visual-spatial intelligence succeed?

Most of the time, they’re likely to succeed in art, architecture, and design.

Some characteristics of individuals with strong visual-spatial intelligence include:

  • Ability to perceive and interpret visual information accurately
  • Ability to visualize and create mental images
  • Ability to manipulate and transform visual and spatial relationships
  • Ability to understand and navigate spatial relationships

This means that an artist who is able to create visually striking and expressive pieces of art or a graphic designer who is able to create visually appealing designs and layouts has great visual-spatial intelligence.

6) Interpersonal intelligence

Have you ever met someone who seems to have an uncanny ability to understand and connect with others

This person may have strong interpersonal intelligence, which is the ability to understand and interact effectively with other people.

Personally, to me as a future psychologist, this is one of the most valuable forms of intelligence. Why?

Because you can’t simply understand people and interpret their emotions without having interpersonal intelligence.

As a matter of fact, interpersonal intelligence involves the ability to perceive and interpret the emotions, intentions, and motivations of others.

Thanks to this form of intelligence, we can easily communicate and collaborate effectively with other people.

And you know what?

Differences in interpersonal intelligence are the reason why some of us are skilled at building and maintaining relationships while others struggle when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

Keep in mind that, with enough effort and practice, it is possible to develop and improve interpersonal intelligence and create more meaningful and productive relationships with others.

So, try to develop your interpersonal intelligence if you want to better understand and connect with others and construct more positive and productive relationships as a result.

7) Intrapersonal intelligence

At a first glance, you might think that intrapersonal intelligence is almost the same as interpersonal intelligence.

However, you should know that they are actually distinct facets of intelligence.

The thing is that intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and reflect on one’s own emotions, thoughts, and motivations. 

In simple words, while interpersonal intelligence is focused on other people and social relationships, interpersonal intelligence is all about the relationship we have with ourselves.

Considering this, you won’t be surprised that intrapersonal intelligence involves self-awareness and self-reflection, which make it easy for us to manage emotions and behavior.

I believe that this type of intelligence is the most important for our psychological well-being as it helps individuals understand and manage their own emotions.

By understanding their own emotions and how to manage them, we can feel more in control of our own well-being and experience a greater sense of emotional stability, right?

So, if you want to develop intrapersonal intelligence, try to set aside time for self-reflection, seek feedback, and practice self-awareness.

That way, you’ll promote self-discovery and self-exploration and improve your intrapersonal intelligence and overall well-being.

8) Naturalistic intelligence

And the final facet of intelligence that I’m about to discuss is considered the most controversial, as it was met with strong resistance compared to the previous 7 types of intelligence.

The reason is that all of the other types of intelligence are somehow related to what was considered to be general intelligence before. But naturalistic intelligence is the ability to perceive and classify elements in the natural world.

Critics often say that there’s no need for intelligence in order to understand living things and read the nature around you. 

But if that’s the case, then why was Charles Darwin the only one to identify and distinguish among different types of plants and develop a theory of evolution as a result?

Well, to me, Gardner’s idea of naturalistic intelligence makes sense as it involves a unique set of abilities and skills that are related to understanding and interacting with the natural world. 

These abilities and skills may be demonstrated in a variety of ways, such as through an interest in and appreciation of the natural world, and the ability to use this knowledge to solve problems and make decisions.

Additionally, naturalistic intelligence has been observed and studied in a wide range of individuals, including scientists, farmers, and outdoors enthusiasts, who demonstrate a strong ability to understand and interact with the natural world. 

This suggests that naturalistic intelligence is a widely-occurring and important aspect of human cognition.

Final thoughts

As you can see, intelligence is not a single, general ability, but rather a collection of multiple, distinct abilities that can be demonstrated in various ways. 

Hopefully, you already understand that Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences provides a valuable framework for understanding the diversity of human abilities and talents.

By understanding the multiple facets of intelligence, we can better understand and appreciate the diversity of human abilities and talents, and we can work to develop and strengthen our own abilities in a variety of areas.

Picture of Nato Lagidze

Nato Lagidze

Nato is a writer and a researcher with an academic background in psychology. She investigates self-compassion, emotional intelligence, psychological well-being, and the ways people make decisions. Writing about recent trends in the movie industry is her other hobby, alongside music, art, culture, and social influences. She dreams to create an uplifting documentary one day, inspired by her experiences with strangers.

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