Part 1: The 9 Types of Intelligence

I think the way we determine what it means to be "intelligent" is flawed.

Because what is intelligence? What does it mean to be a “genius”?

Is it just having a high IQ? There are a lot of people out there with very high IQs but they haven’t done shit with all those brains. Are they still a genius?

Personally, I don’t think so.

Why? Because I think intelligence and “genius” are not just limited to how well you can take a test or solve puzzles.

I think problem-solving is a part of being a genius and component of intelligence.

But I think human intelligence is much, much bigger than that.

If we just accept the idea that you can only be a genius if you have a high IQ, we are throwing out a wide range of other types of intelligence that are obvious.

IQ does not explain the other types of intelligence that are clearly observable in human experience.

What about athletes? Musicians? Artists? Craftsmen?

Is LeBron James a genius? Is Bear Grylls a genius? Is Muhammed Ali a genius? Is YoYo Ma a genius?

All of these people could have completely average IQ scores (I don’t know their actual IQs) and yet they are clearly hyper-intelligent in other skills.

I think there is something to that. Good news: there is a ton of science to back this idea up.

And what I want to do here, is use this blog as the first of a series of 3 articles that will take a deep dive into the 9 different types of intelligence that we know about.

Each article will focus on 3 different types of intelligence.

We’ll look at the science behind each one, how they work, and look at examples of people who have a high degree of these types of intelligence.

I think this will be a valuable series because a lot of times, we get told or shown that there is only one type of intelligence.

I think our society over-values this particular type of “brain only” intelligence at the expense of other types.

There are people with high degrees of artistic or physical intelligence that just assume they’re “dumb” because their IQ test result is 79.

Think of the “dumb jock” cliche. You get a mental image of a big guy lacking in intelligence, despite the fact that he can out-maneuver, out-think, and out-work anyone on the basketball field.

This is the type of contradiction I want to explore in these blogs posts. I want to expose the value of these other types of intelligence.

So let’s get right into it.

About the Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Before we get to our first 3 types of intelligence, is it actually true that there are multiple types of intelligence?

Well, the theory was first put forward by developmental psychologist and Harvard professor, Dr. Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

He theorized that there are 8 types of intelligence.

  1. Musical-Rhythmic.
  2. Visual-Spatial.
  3. Verbal-Linguistic.
  4. Logical-Mathematical.
  5. Bodily-Kinesthetic.
  6. Interpersonal.
  7. Intrapersonal.
  8. Naturalistic.
  9. Existential*

*Gardner postulated that a 9th type of intelligence, Existential or Moral intelligence, could be possible but has been hesitant to fully include it (he’s still alive, btw).

Now, Gardner put together specific, definable, and testable criteria for an “intelligence” to be included on the list.

Each new intelligence had to meet the following 8 criteria:

  1. Potential for brain isolation by brain damage.
  2. Place in evolutionary history.
  3. Presence of core operations.
  4. Susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression).
  5. A distinct developmental progression.
  6. The existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people.
  7. Support from experimental psychology.
  8. Support from psychometric findings.

These make sense to me. They seem to weed out any types of pseudo-intelligences that people might think they have, like being able to read minds or talk with ghosts and shit.

So let’s look at our first three types of intelligence:

  1. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
  2. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
  3. Musical Intelligence

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

To me, this is the type of intelligence that our society values the most. This intelligence measures the ability to quickly and accurately carry out mathematical and logical calculations and propositions.

You can think of things like strategy games, pattern solving, things that would be on your typical SAT or IQ test.

This type of intelligence is usually very developed in scientists, mathematicians, and detectives.

When we talk about how “smart” someone is, this is usually what we are talking about.

Now, it is not “bad” to have this type of intelligence. Some of the people that I admire most are highly gifted in this type of intelligence.

What I’m trying to point out is that this is not the only type of intelligence that humans can have, nor is it the most valuable.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

As you can probably guess, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is a measure of how well someone can move their body or other objects through three-dimensional space.

This intelligence requires a high level of interconnectedness between the mind and body.

There is a sense of mastering their tempo and timing. To me, people with highly developed kinesthetic intelligence can appear to be able to predict the future; where athletes, dancers, or even surgeons and craftsmen seem to know ahead of time how their actions and body will influence space and movement.

You look at people that I mentioned earlier like LeBron James, Jordan, and Muhammad Ali, these are individuals who could do things that no one else could with their bodies. Their physical IQs are beyond anything that the average person could achieve. 

Musical Intelligence

The last type of intelligence I want to cover here is musical-rhythmic.

I’ve known a few people in my life that seem to just have this deeper connection with music than I do. Their musical IQ is highly developed.

They can feel a rhythm instantly, hum a tune they heard years ago, or come up with a catchy melody on the spot.

In some cases, they can even tell you the exact key or pitch of a song and then replicate it themselves.

But it goes beyond that too. These types of people always have a beat in their head, a song they’re singing, and they are keenly aware of the sounds, audio patterns, and rhythms around them.

You see people like Prince, who may have had an average IQ (again, I don’t know). It doesn’t matter because his musical IQ was off the charts. He wrote and produced all of his music, and he played all the instruments.

Kanye West is another person like this. Say what you want about him, but his musical IQ is legendary.

But these are just the first 3 of these multiple intelligences that I want to inspect and look at.

I think that we do ourselves a disservice when we limit our view of intelligence to just being able to pass tests.

These human bodies we have are so complex and so incredible. We can connect with different ideas, skill sets, and knowledge bases in profound ways that we often do not consider because the conventional wisdom tells us that the world is only “one way.”

I hope that these articles will encourage you to think about what types of intelligence you excel at and how you can strengthen your weaknesses.

That’s all.

Live Like a Lion.

- Mike Rashid King