What Does the Research Say About The Multiple Intelligences?

Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory is a psychological theory developed by Howard Gardner in 1983. Gardner’s theory suggests that there are multiple distinct types of intelligence, rather than a single, general intelligence factor. While this theory has gained popularity in education and psychology, it’s important to note that it has also been the subject of both support and criticism within the academic community.

Here’s a summary of what research and critical discussions say about multiple intelligences:

  • Types of Intelligences: Gardner originally proposed seven types of intelligence, which include linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligence. Later, he added naturalistic and existential intelligence to his list.

Support for MI Theory:

  • Some educators and researchers find MI theory useful in the classroom to cater to students’ diverse strengths and learning styles.
  • It emphasizes that intelligence is not a one-size-fits-all concept and recognizes the importance of a broader range of human abilities.

Criticism of MI Theory:

  • Lack of Empirical Evidence: One of the main criticisms of MI theory is the limited empirical evidence supporting its existence. Traditional intelligence testing, such as IQ tests, continues to have a stronger empirical foundation.
  • Lack of Independence: Critics argue that some of the proposed intelligences, such as interpersonal and intrapersonal, are closely related to personality traits rather than separate forms of intelligence.
  • Lack of Predictive Validity: MI theory hasn’t shown strong predictive validity in terms of educational outcomes, job performance, or other practical measures of success.
  • Overlap with Other Theories: Some critics argue that Gardner’s types of intelligence overlap with existing psychological constructs, such as personality traits or cognitive abilities.
  • Educational Implications: The application of MI theory in education varies. Some educators have found success in adapting their teaching methods to cater to different intelligences, while others find it challenging to implement in practice.
  • Cultural and Developmental Differences: Some researchers have noted that the relevance and interpretation of MI theory may vary across different cultures and age groups.
  • Ongoing Debate: The debate over MI theory’s validity and utility in the field of education and psychology continues. Some educators and researchers embrace it as a valuable framework for understanding human diversity, while others remain skeptical.


In summary, while MI theory has influenced educational practices and discussions about intelligence, it remains a subject of ongoing debate. Some find it useful for understanding and addressing the diverse talents and learning styles of individuals, while others criticize it for lacking strong empirical evidence and for blurring the lines between intelligence and personality traits. The field of educational psychology continues to explore the potential benefits and limitations of MI theory.

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