Intelligence is one of those words that covers a lot of territory, much like the word love. In fact, when you look at the intelligence definition according to Wikipedia, it is “the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem-solving.” Many people only understand intelligence in the light of a skill set. Skill is defined as aptitude, mastery, and competence. No definition mentions intelligence types.

types of intelligence

From a young age, people learn motor skills, reasoning, communication, sensing when Mom and Dad want something, music, plants and animals, and much more. It’s only when the young go to school that we interpret what they’re learning as “intelligence.” The truth is that the young develop intelligence from the cradle. This was better explained by psychologist and Harvard professor Howard Gardner in 1983 as the nine types of intelligence.

History of Understanding Multiple Intelligence

Up to now, the only research into multiple intelligence has been Howard Gardner’s. Published studies and controlled testing do not exist. Eminent persons have used this to shoot down the theory, but they have nothing with which to replace it. Gardner’s research, then, remains the only available research on multiple intelligence and the most commonly referenced work when discussing the meaning of intelligence.

Intelligence Types

Ask any teacher in any grade of elementary and middle school how the children grasp any given subject. For example, a student doesn’t understand breaking down a sentence into its most basic form. When a teacher uses Legos to explain it (red is nouns, blue is used for verbs, green is for adjectives, and yellow for adverbs,) the student suddenly understands. Perhaps a student fails to grasp fractions, but “gets it” when the teacher uses the personal pan pizza she brought for her lunch.

Some of those eminent persons mentioned above call this learning styles. However, the basic ability to comprehend a learning style is called intelligence, according to Gardner. These are the nine intelligence types.

1. Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence

This is the capacity to use words. The ability to study words and then write or speak about what was read is verbal-linguistic. Writers use this type of intelligence to draw pictures or set a scene using words. If you give a speech, explain something to your child, write an email, give directions, or replace the words of a popular song with words describing your mood that day, then you are using verbal-linguistic intelligence.

2. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

Mathematics is about patterns, complex ideas, relationships between two or more things, and the logic to follow them to their most basic denominators. It’s about deduction and tracking, developing a hypothesis and then proving it. People with logical-mathematical intelligence make good accountants, scientists, and researchers.

3. Musical Intelligence

Drivers turn on the radio to listen to the Rolling Stones or Travis Tritt. They think they’re listening to music, but they’re actually hearing tone and rhythm. Music is about frequency. If you test someone’s hearing using tones and pitch, or if you buy a frequency before launching your new radio station, then you’re using musical intelligence.

4. Spatial Intelligence

Now that 3D is becoming the big thing, people are beginning to use their spatial intelligence without knowing it. Everyone gapes when they see a house built with a 3D printer, or their dentist provides an upper plate using 3D technology. That’s not all, though. Spatial intelligence takes an object and visualizes it in 3D form. Working on a puzzle, seeing the street on your smart phone’s map app, and putting together a toy on Christmas Eve involves spatial intelligence. So if you’re in the construction industry or you build motors for cars as a hobby, you’re using spatial intelligence.

5. Existential Intelligence

One of the mysteries of life that everyone struggles with is who we are, and why we are here. We go to churches and psychologists for answers, practice meditation and mindfulness to help us figure it out. There is no learning curve for this one, nothing that a classroom can teach us. We’re on our own, so to speak, and when we are, we are using existential intelligence.

6. Intrapersonal Intelligence

This type of intelligence deals with what you want as a person. What should you do with your life, what you look for in a mate, what type of work appeals to you the most, and what do you look for in a friend? It’s diving into yourself at your deepest level. It’s understanding why you do the things you do. This differs significantly from the next type of intelligence.

7. Interpersonal Intelligence

This is when you sense the moods of someone else, something hanging over a crowd, or what someone is not saying. When you can divine other people’s motives, desires, and intentions, then you’re using interpersonal intelligence.

8. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

We watch in complete amazement as a stage full of people perform an Irish dance. Michael Flatly comes to mind in this example. We are spellbound as we watch an actor onstage bring the Christ to life in Jesus Christ, Superstar. Everyone has admired mimes in the park on a Sunday afternoon. We are inspired by the person who uses his body to break down a door behind which is a frightened, crying baby.

When people use their bodies to convey an idea or to solve a problem, they are using bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

9. Naturalistic Intelligence

Don’t recognize that type of tree or flower? Need to know what herb to pick to treat a cold? What kind of bird is that singing you awake every morning? Identifying a cloud formation, how long that storm with the dark gray clouds will take to reach you, or if you can swim for another hour due to the sun being behind a cloud is practicing naturalistic intelligence.

We are all born with a combination of these types of intelligence. Numbers and words are taught in school, but the more creative types of intelligence are up to us to discover and practice. The good news is that it’s there, waiting for you to produce something amazing.