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Howard Gardner, a Harvard University professor of education and author, introduced a theory in his 1983 book entitled Frames of Mind that caught fire in the educational community. His Theory of Multiple Intelligences explains why kids who might not do well in school turn out to be great athletes, musicians, or businessmen and why some kids who get straight A's in school can be disasters in the workplace.

Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences identifies eight different types of intelligence.

  • Linguistic
  • Logical-Mathematical
  • Spatial
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal (people smarts)
  • Intrapersonal (self smarts)
  • Naturalist (nature smart)


Apart from linguistic and logical thinking that's cultivated in schools, such as reading and math classes, Gardner believes that there are separate intelligences for musicality, athletic ability, spatial reasoning, and the ability to perceive and work within nature. The ability to understand other people and to also understand oneself rounds out these eight separate intelligences.

While many psychologists and others in the research community don't accept Gardner's theory for lack of sufficient scientific evidence, the educational community has embraced it with open arms. Its popularity results from teachers' everyday evidence; kids learn differently from each other, and a method used to teach one child may not work for another. The theory also instills value in skills that aren't necessarily taught academically.

If you're planning on going to college or thinking about your best career path, you may want to learn more about Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. For example, if you have always been able to perceive the needs and wants of other people reasonably well, you may have an innate interpersonal intelligence. Those who have high interpersonal intelligences have become very successful salespeople, counselors, educators, and political figures. Many of those same people fell well below the top of their high school classes because they weren't as gifted verbally or mathematically.

If you accept Gardner's theory, you may be able to better identify your strengths and weaknesses by comparing your experiences with his list of different intelligences. Once you have a better sense of where your strengths lie, you may be able more easily pick a field of study or career that is right for you.

Build on your own intelligence with education: Earn an online degree, or study on campus for a degree or certificate at a career school near you. Or, learn a foreign language or pick an online course for personal development.