The Many Flavors of the Mind

As a psychologist, I usually utilize psychometric tests to help me in making informed decisions about my clients. It is the same as an educator. I make evaluations of my students based on some form of tests, and most of the time (if not all the time), in the form of paper and pencil tests.

But I recognize that this is a very limited way to measure students’ potential and achievement. And many of our schools espouse the idea, as reflected in their curriculum and practices, that intelligence and achievement are general abilities and it is either a child has more of it, less of it, or none at all.

But it is a no brainer that in real life, challenges come not only in paper and pencil form but in many various ways. And when training, particularly in school, focuses solely on developing the language and reasoning skills through paper and pencil tests, then our schools fall short in really preparing our children for life.

I believe that intelligence is not just a general ability but they are specific abilities which blend together and allow the unique expression of an individual’s learning style and inclinations. I embrace Howard Gardner’s idea that intelligence is not solely measured by an IQ test but more so by its utility, through problem solving or fashioning a product, in a particular culture.

Our mind has varied preferences to learn and express learning. When these are not recognized, especially in schools because of a one-size-fit- all kind of curriculum, then it deprives the student of real development and direction in the future.

According to Gardner, there are seven intelligences or flavors of the mind so to speak, which has its own symbolic expression and core operations.

First in the list is Verbal-Linguistic intelligence. This is expressed in well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings, and rhythm of words. Examples of this are poets, writers, lawyers, hosts. This can be measured by an IQ test. Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical and numerical patterns. Professions high in this intelligence are accountants, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc. This can also be measured through an IQ test.

Visual-Spatial Intelligence is the capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly. People high in this intelligence include architects, artists, truck drivers, navigators, webmaster, etc. This can also be measured by IQ test. Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence is the ability to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skillfully. Manny Pacquiao, Roger Federrer, Stephen Curry, dancers, etc. are endowed with this intelligence.

Musical Intelligence is the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber. Musicians, voice instructors, audiologists, composers and conductors, are examples of this. Interpersonal Intelligence refers to the ability to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations, and desires of others. Actors, politicians, psychologists, teachers, leaders, are having this intelligence. Intrapersonal Intelligence is the capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes. Gurus, priests, counselors, are some of the people who have this.

While these intelligences have each distinct processing system, they blend together to create a profile unique for each person. How they contribute to the development and continuity of the society and culture one is in is the ultimate test of achievement. Hence, being in the honor roll is not the only evidence that you are intelligent; it is whether you are able to solve problems or create products valuable to your culture.

Now, the role of schools should be to cater, nurture, and celebrate all of these intelligences equilaterally. How, that will be for next issue.