Seven Kinds of Smarts


I’m not the smartest. I scored a mere 430 on my GMAT (the worldwide average is 570). As far as grad schools were concerned, I was an “average” student.  In my defense, attending business school wasn’t a deep, burning desire — it just seemed like the next logical thing to do.  I applied to a single university where it wasn’t necessary to land in the top percentile.

Christina Dunham | 7 Kinds of Smarts Which isn’t to say I don’t I think I’m a relatively smart gal. When I was in grade school, I brought home my share of “gold eagles” in my report card, the eagle being Colegio San Agustin’s (CSA) school mascot and its symbol of academic achievement. CSA uses a 100 point grading system, where a gold eagle represents a grade of 90% or higher, a red eagle was 85-89%, and a blue eagle was 80-84%. But when the grade school IQ test was administered, I must not have scored too high, because I certainly was not singled out as part of the super-smart set.

My youngest brother, Jinx, was an average student at school. My dad once asked him why he didn’t have any eagles in his report card, and his response was, “They flew away.” He didn’t graduate with honors, and was considered by many of the teachers as a rather mischievous and troublesome kid, labeled as very makulit (stubborn) and malikot (hyper). But he played a mean game of chess (representing his high school in regional competitions), was a competitive soccer player throughout elementary and high school, and a brilliant artist. He’s now a highly sought-after UI/UX designer working on projects for companies like Google.

7 Kinds of Smarts

My husband Jack, on the other hand, is a human computer and walking encyclopedia. A true information maven. I’m always amazed at how he can remember lessons from science class from the fifth grade, or explain complicated mathematical formulas in great detail. He is, by academic standards, a genius.

As far as I’m concerned, both Jinx and Jack smart cookies. Unfortunately, standard IQ tests and college admissions exams, used to predict educational achievement, typically only measure Jack’s type of intelligence – verbal ability and mathematic reasoning. Critics, like Professor Linda Siegal from the Universityof British Columbia, argue that most IQ tests only measure what students have learned and remembered, not what they are capable of doing in the future.

About fifteen years ago, I came across a book entitled “7 Kinds of Smart,” by Thomas Armstrong. Back then, I was dating a guy who went to M.I.T. and Stanford – a certifiable genius, in fact. Despite my MBA, I felt a little, well, dumb, around him. Desiring in part to validate my own intelligence, I decided to read up on the subject.

Based on Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences developed in 1983, the book proposes seven different kinds of intelligences that encompass the wide variety of skills and talents human beings are capable of exhibiting. The original theory defined seven core intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. (In 1997, an eighth type, “naturalistic intelligence,” was added.)

According toGardner, the seven types of smarts are:

  1. Linguistic (word smart) – writing, speaking, learning new languages, interpretation and explanation of ideas and information
  2. Logical-mathematical (number smart) – scientific reasoning and deduction, performing mathematical calculations, detecting and analyzing logical patterns
  3. Spatial-visual (picture smart) – interpretation and creation of visual images through drawing, painting, sculpting, and designing; understanding relationships between images and meanings, between space and effect
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic (body smart) – manual dexterity, physical agility and balance, bodily control and hand-eye coordination as exhibited by dancers, athletes, actors, and craftsmen
  5. Musical (music smart) – recognition of tonal and rhythmic patterns, awareness and use of music and sound, as expressed by singers, musicians, composers and DJs
  6. Interpersonal (people smart) – involves social skills, empathy and understanding; ability to read people’s emotions and interpret behavior, and respond to them accordingly
  7. Intrapersonal (self smart) – requires knowledge and mastery of oneself, as well as personal objectivity and awareness of one’s own potential and limitations – it is a prerequisite for discipline and self-improvement

According to the theory, all human beings inherently possess all seven, and many activities require a combination of these intelligences. For example, actors require intrapersonal/bodily-kinesthetic/linguistic intelligence to deliver a convincing performance.

Christina Dunham | 7 Kinds of Smarts Besides identifying types of aptitude, the theory of multiple intelligences also recognizes people’s preferred modes of learning. In Kindergarten, we typically partake in activities that touch on all these areas, but as we move further along our academic life, more emphasis is placed on linguistic and logical-mathematical skills.

Ideally, those who favor one or two intelligences over the rest are able develop these abilities further. We’re not talking about prodigies or autistic savants who display extraordinary talents, like Mozart or Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Rain Man” – these are by far the exception to the rule.  Rather, we’re referring to people who seem to really excel at their chosen roles and professions, ostensibly because they have developed these abilities and channeled them into activities to which they’re ideally suited.

The more I read about the subject, the better I felt about my own brand of brilliance. Encouraged to pursue my various interests and develop my seven kinds of smarts, I started signing up for classes and participating in a variety of activities.

Today, I indulge my linguistic smarts through language courses and writing; the logical-analytical through my work as marketing strategist; the spatial-visual through painting and gardening; the bodily-kinesthetic through martial arts and dancing; and the musical smarts by singing in a band. Those who know me would agree that I practice my interpersonal skills quite often, and meditation and self-reflection allow me to harness my intrapersonal skills. Rather than focus on a specific type of intelligence, I have chosen to dabble in all of them. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

So if you didn’t score 140 on your IQ test or a 720 on your GMAT, don’t sweat it. Success doesn’t always require knowledge of the formula for Phi.

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