The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple IntelligenceThe social and psychological bearing of Taare Zameen Par after its release was immense. There was a definitive change in the biases against children incapable of coping with the pressure put on them at school. The theory of multiple intelligence deals with a similar aspect. The genesis of this theory traces back to the fact that renowned psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner felt that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, was far too limited. The theory was first laid out in Gardner’s 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences and was proposed in context to the debates about the concepts of intelligence and whether the methods which claimed to test intelligence were truly scientific.

Gardner suggested that the traditional definition of intelligence did not encompass the myriad abilities that humans had to display. Hence, what was brought forth were eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults; these were linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence (picture smart), bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, and naturalist intelligence .

Gardner felt that the prevalent state of affairs in schools, colleges and even work spaces was appalling, as much stress was laid on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. Bodily–kinesthetic intelligence has to do with movement and doing. In this category, people are generally adept at physical activities such as sports or dance and often prefer activities which utilize movement. Careers as athletes, dancers, actors, and surgeons suit people with this form of intelligence. People with musical, naturalist, linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, as their names suggest, have a greater tendency to pursue a career in that respective field. But what scares educationists the most is that this option is given to a child much later in life. While in school, children incapable of keeping pace are labeled ‘learning disabled’, suffering from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or as mere underachievers.

However, on the brighter side, many institutions have adapted this theory into their teaching curricula. For example, while teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, one might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal), examine the law in terms of your own body (when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down), or write a song that demonstrates the law. This theory might seem ridiculous to many institutions, but it finds a lot of practical application. We have all come across cases in which children are ace sports players on the one hand but can barely pass a subject in class. This theory not only finds application in schools but in corporate houses as well, where many adults find themselves in jobs that do not make optimal use of their most highly developed intelligences, for example, the highly bodily-kinesthetic individual who is stuck in a linguistic or logical desk-job .The theory of multiple intelligences gives adults a whole new way to look at their lives and to examine potentials that they left behind in their childhood.

The book deals with ideas and ways to tap in to people’s potential, which is not hidden, but not channelised fruitfully. So, if next time you feel that you can cook better that you can multiply, give it a shot, for we all have a different ‘frames of mind’.

Amanjit Singh Khanna

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