We have often referred to someone's intelligence, either to compliment them or, on the contrary, to criticise their lack of it.
But what is intelligence? What do we call being intelligent? If we are asked this question out of the blue, we will probably have to stop for a while to think about an answer, because it is a very difficult concept to limit. In fact, searching for a definition can lead to new questions, such as: can there be different types of intelligence?
In 2007, intelligence was defined by Passer and Smith as "the ability to acquire knowledge, to think and reason effectively, and to handle oneself adaptively in the environment". In other words, intelligence would be made up of: the ability to acquire knowledge, the knowledge already acquired, and the use we make of it.
Until now, IQ (intelligence quotient) has been used as the only way to measure intelligence. The main intelligence tests assess verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory and processing speed. Most of the skills measured by IQ would be part of academic intelligence, but what is the point of getting good grades at school if, for example, we don't have the ability to build good relationships? This would refer to emotional intelligence, but according to Howard Gardner and his collaborators at Harvard University, there is no such thing as intelligence, but in fact there are many independent intelligences.
Thus, there would not be one person more intelligent than another, but rather each person would be intelligent in a different field.
Howard Gardner formulated the Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983, according to which he identified eight different types of intelligences.
Linguistic intelligence: consists of the ability to communicate orally, in writing and gesturally. It can also be defined as the level at which we are able to express and understand ideas correctly. Examples of this type of intelligence can be found in politicians, writers, journalists, actors...
Logical-mathematical intelligence: this is the ability to carry out logical reasoning and to solve mathematical problems in the shortest possible time. Tests designed to assess IQ usually measure this type of intelligence and some aspects of linguistic intelligence. It can be found especially developed in scientists, engineers, mathematicians, economists...
Visual-spatial intelligence: this is the ability to observe objects and the world around us from different perspectives, as well as to visualise objects in our minds from different angles. It is found in people who are able to create maps or mental images, such as taxi drivers, painters, architects... It has a great influence on the ability to orientate oneself in space.
Musical intelligence: this is defined as the ability to appreciate, discriminate, transform and express musical forms, as well as sensitivity to rhythm, tone and timbre. It is remarkable that, although not as specific as language, areas in the brain have been found to be related to musical perception and production.
Bodily and kinaesthetic intelligence: this consists on the rational use of physical skills for the manipulation of tools or the expression of ideas and feelings. It is the coordination between body and mind to perfect physical performance. It is present in athletes, actors, surgeons...
Intrapersonal intelligence: it is composed of self-knowledge and self-control. It is the ability to regulate our own emotions, reflect on them and understand why we feel one way or another. It allows us to identify distortions in our thoughts and to present a greater objectivity when we face with situations that affect us emotionally.
Interpersonal intelligence: the ability to empathise in the sense of detecting and understanding circumstances or problems that others may have. It is the ability to detect slight changes in people's emotions or intentions, or implicit objectives within a discourse. It tends to be especially developed in pedagogues, psychologists, teachers...
Natural intelligence: it was added a posteriori, in 1995. It is essential for survival as it facilitates the use of natural resources, and allows us to detect and categorise aspects of the environment such as animals or plants, and climate phenomena.
This theory is very interesting, especially in the school environment, where we assume that students should learn along the same lines, without taking into account the differences between each one. It is increasingly realised that being bad at maths and language is not synonymous with being less intelligent, and that each of us is good at something, we just have to find out what it is and enhance it.