Gardner's Multiple Intelligences
Gardner continues in the tradition of Thurstone's proposal that there is no g (general intelligence) but rather multiple, distinct intelligences. Gardner proposes seven intelligences (although he does not limit the possible number)
Additional 'candidate' intelligences are:
Howard Gardner (1983, 1993, 1999) believes that we have multiple intelligences, rather than a general intelligence that underlies performance in all tasks (g).
In arguing that there are distinct and separate components to intelligence Gardner offers nothing particularly new. However, what is new about Gardner's work is that he does not attempt to support his approach purely through statistical reanalysis of data (e.g. as Thurstone did), but instead he has looked at various "signs" to inform his theory of what constitutes intelligence.
Gardner's multiple intelligence theory is supported by the current anti-g Zeitgeist. He also suggests that different cultures highlight certain intelligences & minimize others.
Gardner has examined a variety of sources in order to formulate his theory of intelligence: intelligence tests, cognition experiments, neuropsychological research, child prodigies and idiot savantes.
As a result, Gardner has proposed five "signs" or criteria that he uses to identify whether an intelligence qualifies as being distinct and autonomous from other intelligences:
1. Neuropsychological evidence: isolation by brain damage:
One criterion was whether an intelligence could be isolated neuropsychologically. Gardner argues that people have multiple intelligences because they have multiple neural modules. Each module, he believes, has its own way of operating and its own memory systems. Brain damage may sometimes impair one intellectual skill whilst other skills remain at least partially intact after brain damage. For example, brain-injured musicians may have impaired speech, yet retain the ability to play music (aphasia without amusia (Hodges, 1996; Sergent, 1993).
2. The existence of individuals with exceptional talent:
Selective competence (such as idiot savants, prodigies), like selective deficits, suggests autonomy of that particular competence. In other words, the presence of extraordinary intelligence in one area suggests a distinct form of intelligence. If Mozart could write music before he could even read, then the neural systems involved in musical intelligence must be separate from those involved in language processing.
3. A distinct developmental history:
Another source of evidence for an intelligence is a characteristic developmental trajectory leading from basic and universal manifestations to one or more expert end-states. For example, spoken language develops quickly and to great competence in normal people. In contrast, while all normal individuals can count small quantities, few progress to an understanding of higher mathematics even with formal schooling. (Torff & Gardner, 1999).
4. Experimental evidence:
e.g. individuals performing two different tasks at once indicate that some intelligences (or is it just abilities) operate autonomously.
5. Psychometric support:
e.g. factor analysis shows different factors in intelligence. FA generally supports the existence of two big group factors: verbal and spatial (Torff & Gardner, 1999).
Gardner concludes that the cumulative evidence points to seven (or possibly eight) distinct intelligences. The first three are somewhat similar to previous components of intelligence identified by other approaches; whereas the second four/five are more novel. He believes these develop differently in different people due to both heredity and training. He believes that all need to be measured to provide a truly global assessment of intelligence.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Wikipedia. Theory of multiple intelligences.