Matter of Intelligence
something of a "hot topic," especially in that there has been a
fair amount of attention paid to it, mostly in terms of the lack
of it, or what many have called "stupidity." And, as it
happens, most folks consider intellect to be an important part
of reasoning and our grasp of reality. So...we thought it
worth some discussion in relationship to our articles about
"Using Your Head."
yes, there is some controversy
about this topic, mainly in terms of what constitutes
intelligence, and the possibility that there are more than one
type of intelligence (see below). Also, some question the degree to
which intelligence is important in navigating the modern world.
Some say "common sense" and "street smarts" are
equally or possibly more important.
propose to sort all this out right now, but we do recognize its
relevance. For now, we just want to say that using our
ability to reason can help recognize and manage reality, and to
the extent reasoning correlates with intelligence, we think that
can be important.
Areas of agreement:
that people vary in terms of what they can handle conceptually.
Individuals differ from one another in their ability to
understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the
environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various
forms of reasoning. At one end of the spectrum are people who have limited
vocabularies and cannot read (we now call them "developmentally
disabled") and at the other end are people who have extensive
vocabularies and can grasp very complex ideas (what we often
call "geniuses"). People vary in
cognitive ability, just as they vary in physical ability (e.g.,
some have more manual dexterity than others).
start, as we often do, with a dictionary definition and move on
(1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying
situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2) : the
ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to
think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)
NOTE: We are not concerned
with the term as it is applied to information gathering by the
As the definition above indicates, intelligence is an ability,
similar to the ability to run fast. It is pretty stable
over a person's life time. Repeated assessments come up
with the same scores on intelligence tests (plus or minus around
3 points). Like all mental phenomena, it is presumed to
have a neurological base, one that may well be genetically
determined (intelligent parents tend to have intelligent
In general then,
intelligence is seen as the ability to overcome obstacles by
taking thought, and we differ from each other in this ability. Although
differences can be substantial, they are never entirely
consistent: a given person's intellectual performance will vary
on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by
different criteria. Concepts of "intelligence" are attempts to
clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although
considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such
conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions,
and none commands universal assent. definitions
Types of Intelligence: Over the years, researches
into intelligence viewed it in terms of such things as logical
reasoning, math skills, spatial skills, understanding analogies,
and verbal skills. Then, some have added
bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence (the capacity to manipulate
objects and use a variety of physical skill) social intelligence
(handling interpersonal relationships), and emotional
intelligence (which we discuss fully elsewhere on our website).
Howard Gardner, in his1983
book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Rather than seeing intelligence as a single, general ability,
Gardner divided it into multiple intelligence:
Linguistic intelligence is the ability to think in words and to
use language to express and appreciate complex meanings.
Linguistic intelligence allows us to understand the order and
meaning of words and to apply meta-linguistic skills to reflect
on our use of language. Linguistic intelligence is the most
widely shared human competence and is evident in poets,
novelists, journalists, and effective public speakers. Young
adults with this kind of intelligence enjoy writing, reading,
telling stories or doing crossword puzzles.
Intelligence (Number/Reasoning Smart)
Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate,
quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out
complete mathematical operations. It enables us to perceive
relationships and connections and to use abstract, symbolic
thought; sequential reasoning skills; and inductive and
deductive thinking patterns. Logical intelligence is usually
well developed in mathematicians, scientists, and detectives.
Young adults with lots of logical intelligence are interested in
patterns, categories, and relationships. They are drawn to
arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.
Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three
dimensions. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial
reasoning, image manipulation, graphic and artistic skills, and
an active imagination. Sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, and
architects all exhibit spatial intelligence. Young adults with
this kind of intelligence may be fascinated with mazes or jigsaw
puzzles, or spend free time drawing or daydreaming.
Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm,
timbre, and tone. This intelligence enables us to recognize,
create, reproduce, and reflect on music, as demonstrated by
composers, conductors, musicians, vocalist, and sensitive
listeners. Interestingly, there is often an affective connection
between music and the emotions; and mathematical and musical
intelligences may share common thinking processes. Young adults
with this kind of intelligence are usually singing or drumming
to themselves. They are usually quite aware of sounds others may
Intelligence (“Body Smart”)
Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is the capacity to manipulate
objects and use a variety of physical skills. This intelligence
also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills
through mind–body union. Athletes, dancers, surgeons, and
craftspeople exhibit well-developed bodily kinesthetic
Intelligence (Self Smart”)
Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand
oneself and one’s thoughts and feelings, and to use such
knowledge in planning and directioning one’s life.
Intra-personal intelligence involves not only an appreciation of
the self, but also of the human condition. It is evident in
psychologist, spiritual leaders, and philosophers. These young
adults may be shy. They are very aware of their own feelings and
Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart”)
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand and
interact effectively with others. It involves effective verbal
and nonverbal communication, the ability to note distinctions
among others, sensitivity to the moods and temperaments of
others, and the ability to entertain multiple perspectives.
Teachers, social workers, actors, and politicians all exhibit
interpersonal intelligence. Young adults with this kind of
intelligence are leaders among their peers, are good at
communicating, and seem to understand others’ feelings and
Designates the human ability to discriminate among living things
(plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of
the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability
was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters,
gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles
as botanist or chef. It is also speculated that much of our
consumer society exploits the naturalist intelligences, which
can be mobilized in the discrimination among cars, sneakers,
kinds of makeup, and the like
Sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human
existence, such as the meaning of life, why do we die, and how
did we get here.
There are those who disagree with Gardmer's model and
site research suggesting it is better to see intelligence as a
single phenomenon. They argue that these additional
"intelligences" are simply additional abilities, separate from
intelligence, but there are those who say that intelligence
itself is an ability.
We have no opinion about this
particular controversy, BUT we do have the opinion that it is
valuable to think of different aspects of what we call
"intelligence," so we're in favor of keeping Gardner's work as
something that broadens our conceptual understanding of what it
means to be "intelligent."
Intelligence: This is
an additional type of intelligence that has been discussed.
It is a sufficiently large topic that we've devoted a separate
web page to it amongst our articles about emotionality.
read about Emotional Intelligence
return to the Articles Page