Multiple Intelligence Theory Essay

One of the important debates in psychology centers on the number of intelligences. The proponents of one-intelligence model argue that humans possess only one general-type intelligence that governs the development of specific faculties, whereas their opponents claim the presence of multiple intelligences, providing different listings. Spearman’s Model of Intelligence and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences are influential in their respective paradigms. In this paper, we will review the tenets of each theory, trying to understand which of them is more in line with psychology today.

The theory proposed by Charles E. Spearman is a psychometric one in the sense that it seeks “to understand the structure of intelligence: the form it takes, its categories, and its composition” (ThinkQuest, 2000). The research performed by Spearman noted correlation between the measures of ability.

Individuals who performed well on one mental ability test were more likely to do well on others, and vice versa. Those who excelled on a math test were more likely to do well on a linguistic test. This correlation was termed “positive manifold”. Using the data from these experiments, Spearman was able to come up with a model of statistical analysis that discovered the patterns of individual variation on the tests. He believed that the ability to do well on tests was influenced by two factors: “the “general factor” which is our general intellectual ability, and a test-specific factor” (ThinkQuest, 2000).

The idea advanced by Spearman was not supported by all psychologists, though. Many of them found that human possessed not one general intelligence, but many types. Initially this idea was advanced by Thurston; later, Gardner proposed his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. According to this theory, people have at least seven types of faculties: “linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal (e.g., insight, metacognition), and interpersonal (e.g., social skills)” (Personality Research, 1999). A person who excels in one type of ability can have problems in another area as they are not directly related. Most human experiences require multiple intelligences; multiple intelligences are involved in most jobs. Thus, a programmer would need logical-mathematical intelligence to write a program; linguistic intelligence to choose “recognizable variable names”, intrapersonal intelligence to recognize a difficult problem, and interpersonal one to ask for help if necessary (Personality Research, 1999).

Gardner’s theory is believed to be cognitive-contextual as it focuses on the operations of mental processes (ThinkQuest, 2000). The researcher derived material for his theory from research in multiple areas such as investigation of individuals with brain damage, people with outstanding ability, and cognitive variation between cultures. His conclusions underscore that his intelligences are universal and do not include variation between cultures.

Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences is different from Spearman’s in the proposal of several intelligences instead of one. Under this model, a person can be successful in one area, while failing in another. In contrast, according to Spearman’s model, a person either has a high level of intelligence in all areas or a low one. It seems that Gardner’s model is more in line with contemporary psychology because it focuses on cognitive processes rather than structures. Besides, it takes not only test scores into account, but also human behaviour in situations that require interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. The proposition of a number of intelligences seems to capture the diversity of human mentality more effectively over the long run.

Personality Research. (1999). Intelligence. Retrieved July 28, 2006, from
ThinkQuest. (2000). Intelligence Theories. Retrieved July 28, 2006, from

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