Multi-Modal Intelligence and Multiple Intelligences
People know their worlds in many ways. All of us have many
cognitive capacities, but most of us are particularly strong in
some and weak in others. Our cognitive patterns are part of who
we are, part of our diverse uniqueness. Most importantly, those
patterns are gifts we can contribute to each other and to the
groups and communities of which we are a part, so that those human
collectives can know themselves, their world, and the universe
more fully than any of us can individually. And for that reason,
it behooves groups and communities to support us at being the
most whole, competent people we can be, and to support synergy
among us so that we can be even more whole and competent together.
In this effort, it helps to have a sense of our diverse cognitive
capabilities, our multi-modal intelligence. In the last fifteen
years an increasing number of people are reaching far beyond IQ
to research and comment on the multi-dimensional quality of human
intelligence -- or, as some see it, multiple intelligences. Here
is a composite (and sometimes overlapping) list of human intelligences
drawn from a half-dozen such explorations. As you read it, think
about your own capacities in each area, and about people you know
who are especially gifted or incapable in these various intelligences.
- PRACTICAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to think in
concrete examples and solve daily problems directly without necessarily
being able to explain how; the tendency to survive or succeed
through taking straightforward, responsive, concrete action.
(Also called marketing, strategic or political intelligence --
since it focuses on "the art of the possible" -- or
just common sense or simple effectiveness.)
- VERBAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to think and communicate
effectively and creatively with words; and to recognize, use
and appreciate linguistic patterns.
- LOGICAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to think in terms
of (and to appreciate) abstract parts, symbols and sequential
relationships, conceptual regularities or numerical patterns,
and to reach conclusions or construct things in an orderly way.
(Also called rational, analytic or mathematical intelligence.)
- ASSOCIATIVE INTELLIGENCE is the ability to think in
non-sequential associations -- similarities, differences, resonances,
meanings, relationships, etc. -- and to create (and appreciate)
totally new patterns and meanings out of old ones.
- SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to visualize,
appreciate and think in terms of pictures and images; to graphically
imagine possibilities; and to observe, understand, transform
and orient oneself in visual reality. (Also called pictorial
or imaginative intelligence.)
- INTUITIVE INTELLIGENCE is the ability to know directly,
to perceive and appreciate whole or hidden patterns beyond (or
faster than) logic.
- MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE is the capacity to perceive,
appreciate, resonate with, produce and productively use rhythms,
melodies, and other sounds.
- AESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE is the ability to produce,
express, communicate and appreciate in a compelling way inner,
spiritual, natural and cultural realities and meanings. (This
can include aspects of verbal, musical and spatial intelligences.)
- BODY INTELLIGENCE is the ability to sense, appreciate,
and utilize one's own body -- movement, manual dexterity, tactile
sensitivity, physical responsiveness and constraints; to create
and think in terms of physiological patterns; to maintain physical
health; and to relate to or meet the needs of others' bodies.
(Also called kinesthetic or somatic intelligence.)
- INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to perceive,
understand, think about, relate to and utilize other people's
subjective states, and to estimate their likely behavior. This
includes, especially, empathy.
- SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to work with others
and find identity and meaning in social engagement; to perceive,
think, and deal in terms of multi-person patterns, group dynamics
and needs, and human communities; it includes a tendency towards
cooperation and service. (Also called team intelligence.)
- AFFECTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to be affected
by, connected to or resonant with people, ideas, experiences,
aesthetics, or any other aspect of life; to experience one's
liking or disliking of these things; and to use one's affinities
in decision-making and life.
- MOOD INTELLIGENCE is the ability to fully experience
any mood as it happens (without having to judge it or do anything
about it), to learn from it, and to move out of it at will --
especially to generate resilience.
- MOTIVATIONAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to know and
to work with what moves you; to sense, think and initiate in
terms of needs, wants, will, courage, responsibility and action
-- one's own and others. (This can include that aspect of mood
intelligence that can marshal emotions in the service of a goal.)
- INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to recognize,
access and deal with one's own subjective (or inner) world. (This
can include aspects of affectional, mood, motivational and body
- EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to experience,
think and deal with emotional patterns in oneself and others.
(This can include aspects of interpersonal, intrapersonal, affectional,
mood and motivational intelligences.)
- BASIC INTELLIGENCE is the ability to move toward what
is healthy and desirable and away from what is unhealthy or undesirable.
(This can use affectional and practical intelligences, or be
almost automatic and instinctual.)
- BEHAVIORAL PATTERN INTELLIGENCE is the ability to
recognize, form and change one's own behavioral patterns, including
compulsions, inhibitions and habits.
- PARAMETER INTELLIGENCE is the ability to create and
sustain order and predictability -- to recognize, establish,
sustain, and change rhythms, routines/rituals, boundaries, guiding
principles/values/beliefs, etc., in one's own life.
- HABIT INTELLIGENCE is the ability to recognize, form
and change one's habits (which naturally embraces many aspects
of behavioral and parameter intelligence).
- ORGANIZING INTELLIGENCE is the ability to create order
in one's own life and in other lives/groups/systems. (This can
include aspects of parameter, team/social, and logical intelligences)
- SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE is the ability to sense, appreciate
and think with spiritual and moral realities and patterns --
to operate from an awareness of ultimate common ground (consciousness,
spirit, nature, or some other sacred dimension). (This is usually
dependent on intrapersonal intelligence.) (Also called moral
or transcendental intelligence.)
- NARRATIVE INTELLIGENCE is the ability to perceive,
know, think, feel, explain one's experience and influence reality
through the use of stories and narrative forms (characters, history,
myth, dreams, scenarios, etc.).
- ECO-INTELLIGENCE is the ability to recognize, appreciate,
think and feel with, and utilize natural patterns and one's place
in nature, and to empathize with and sustain healthy relationships
with animals, plants and natural systems.
All of these are needed by each of us, at least to some degree,
in order to have a successful life. Some people are blessed with
great endowments of one or more of these. Some have very little
of one or more of these. Some situations require one particular
kind of intelligence or combination of intelligences not needed
in other situations. This is a very powerful aspect of our diversity.
Among the many authors who have dealt with the subject of multiple
intelligences (and from whose work most of the above list is derived)
are Howard Gardner (Frames of Mind , 1983), Daniel Goleman(Emotional
Intelligence, 1995), Jennifer James (Thinking in the Future
Tense, 1996), Thomas Armstrong (Seven Kinds of Smart: Identifying
and Developing Your Many Intelligences, 1993), Elaine De Beauport
(The Three Faces of Mind: Developing Your Mental, Emotional,
and Behavioral Intelligences, 1996) and Peter Koestenbaum
(The Heart of Business, 1987).
I'd like to quickly note two other approaches to multi-modal
intelligence that differ from the multiple-intelligences approach.
A system called Human Dynamics suggests that there are physical,
emotional and mental sorts of information (data about real
things, feelings and ideas), and physical, emotional and mental
ways of processing information (doing, feeling, and thinking).
Each of us can work in all three modes, but we tend to specialize
in one form of information and one form of processing. This produces
nine modes of engagement with the world, nine human dynamics,
nine styles of cognition and communication. The most widespread
of these modes, called emotional-physical, is the habit of 60%
of Western populations: they are centered on their feelings about
physical things and conditions. If you want to explore this further,
you can make a little chart of the nine modes and reflect on it
or visit the Human
Dynamics International website .
Another way of approaching how we organize our experience is
through analysis of learning styles. David A. Kolb suggests that
different people prefer abstraction or concreteness on the one
hand, and active experimentation or reflection on the other. Putting
these together, we come up with four learning styles. Concrete-active
people naturally learn best by doing things. Concrete-reflective
people learn by creatively integrating information from many sources.
Abstract-active people learn by figuring things out and solving
problems. Abstract-reflective people learn best by absorbing and
working with theories and forming new theories of their own to
explain the facts they gather.
Despite the debates among these and other approaches, I believe
all of them provide insights into the diverse ways we know and
engage with the world. By clarifying what I call multi-modal intelligence,
they help us understand what makes us tick, and provide clues
about why we have problems with each other and how we might improve
our relationships and groups.
In realms like education and communication, these insights
can help us tailor our communications to different audiences.
If there are many diverse students, we need to provide a wide
variety of learning experiences to engage their logical, verbal,
emotional, aesthetic, physical, musical, spatial, intuitive, narrative,
imaginative, sensory, spiritual and other cognitive inclinations.
An increasing number of classrooms are set up so that each student
learns at least some of the time in ways that are comfortable
for them, while at other times they have to stretch to exercise
less familiar modes of intelligence.
Multi-modal intelligence theories can also help us understand
that each mode, itself, serves especially well for particular
tasks. Analytical reason, for example, reigns supreme in logical
problem-solving, while interpersonal intelligence (or "heart")
does best in sustaining relationships, and intuition excels in
helping us leap beyond conventional perspectives. Together they
can be used synergistically to generate greater wisdom to deal
with complex challenges that demand all these capacities.
Within our families, groups and organizations, diverse modes
of intelligence can work together to enhance our collective intelligence
-- or they can become a problem, making collective intelligence
all but impossible. It all depends on how well we deal with our
diversity. If those of us who are intuitive protest that the analysts
are being reductionist -- and those of us who are analytical label
the intuitives' hunches, feelings and gut responses as "irrational"
-- then we can be assured that together we'll stamp out whatever
wisdom is trying to emerge in our midst.
On the other hand, if we work with each other, we can
together generate a broader, richer collective knowing than we
could on our own. We can then use that powerful collective intelligence
to succeed at shared enterprises.
One of my favorite examples of integrating multi-modal intelligence
involves a small philanthropic organization, the Turtle Island
Fund. When they consider funding requests, they start with extensive
research and analysis. After discussing all the pros and cons
of various proposals, they ask: What are we feeling about these
proposals? They share their fear, anger, sadness or excitement
until they feel clear on the emotional level. Then they do a short
"attunement" meditation together, after which they jointly
interpret any pictures, body sensations or verbal messages that
came to them. If this process of collective intuition results
in a reversal of what their analysis first led them to, they go
with their intuition. They communicate to applicants not just
their decisions, but what occurred during their decision-making.
They find that good things happen not only for those whose applications
they approve, but also for those who are rejected -- a sign of
high-quality, co-intelligent decisions. (ref: Carolyn Shaffer
and Kristin Anundsen, Creating Community Anywhere (Tarcher,
1993), p. 277)
As research in multi-modal intelligence progresses, perhaps
we will gain more understanding about which cognitive modes are
best for which sorts of situations and how we can use each one
to clarify, support or constrain the others in ways that enhance
our overall co-intelligence capabilities.
The collective intelligence we build should nurture these and
other differences among us as resources, as gifts that grow in
power as we support and share them. The creative use of diversity
is a hallmark of co-intelligence, and nowhere is it clearer than
in how we synergize the diverse modes of intelligence available
to address our shared situations.