Intelligence redefined

Monday, 2 December 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I am preparing to conduct a public workshop with the above title. It gave me an opportunity to revisit the often misunderstood concept of intelligence. Today’s column is about the multiple presence of intelligence, with relevance and applications for working managers. Intelligence in focus In the olden days someone was regarded as intelligence if he/she can “read, write and do arithmetic.” Is this the only way to assess a person’s intelligence? The answer is “no”, simply because there are more than one form of intelligence. What are the forms and features of such intelligences? Today’s column will discuss it in detail. Intelligence comes from the Latin verb “intellegere”, which means “to understand”. It is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, to plan, to solve problems, to think abstractly, to comprehend ideas, to use language, and to learn. Among the many researchers on intelligence, Howard Gardener’s name appears prominently. He is a professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is of the view that intelligence has multiple forms. As he elaborates, “to my mind, a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills of problem solving — enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters and, when appropriate, to create an effective product — and must also entail the potential for finding or creating problems — and thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge.” He defined the term intelligence in a much broader sense compared to the traditional ideas. He says, “Intelligence is a bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture”. In essence, he relates intelligence as a capacity to understand in a cultural setting. Based on his research, Gardner asked a fundamental question: Is intelligence a single thing or various independent intellectual faculties? His suggestion was that each individual manifests varying levels of these different intelligences, and thus each person has a unique profile of capability. His ideas on intelligence were first laid out in a 1983 book, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”.  Since then, the concept of multiple intelligences was further enhanced and refined. Eight intelligences Gardner proposed eight different intelligences that people have. They are: verbal/linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual/spatial, bodily/kinaesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. Let’s discuss them in detail. 1. Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence This has to do with words, spoken or written. People with verbal-linguistic intelligence are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorising words and dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and via discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. They learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure. Frequent users of verbal/linguistic intelligence are writers, speakers, teachers, actors, attorneys and politicians. Among the famous people who were high on this intelligence, William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Wickremesinghe can be cited. 2. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence Here the emphasis is on logic, abstractions,     reasoning, and numbers. Those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities. Gardener states that focus is less on traditional mathematical ability and     more reasoning capabilities, abstract pattern recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. Among the occupations that need high level of logical/mathematical intelligence are mathematicians, scientists, accountants, inventors, detectives, engineers and programmers. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Cyril Ponnamperuma can be considered as examples of those who were high on this intelligence. 3. Visual/Spatial Intelligence Building pictures in mind, designing, modelling, and colouring are some of the common features associated with visual/spatial intelligence. Those who are high in this type are typically very good at visualising and mentally manipulating objects. They have a strong visual memory and are often artistically inclined. They also generally have a very good sense of direction and may also have very good hand-eye coordination. Frequent users of visual/spatial intelligence are sailors, sculptors/painters, engineers, pilots, designers, architects and surgeons.  Among the famous people who used this intelligence, Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Geoffrey Bawa can be cited. 4. Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence This intelligence involves motion and action. Those who are high in this are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance and often prefer activities which use movement. They learn better by getting up and moving around.  They have “muscle memory” where they remember things through their body, rather than through words (verbal memory) or images (visual memory). It requires the skills and dexterity for fine motor movements such as those required for dancing, athletics, surgery, craft making, etc. Those who need a high level of bodily/kinaesthetic intelligence are athletes, dancers, performers, physical therapists and coaches. Michael Jordan of basketball fame, Sanath Jayasuriya and Chitrasena can be cited as famous people in this category. 5. Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence This category involves rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. They normally have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. They will often use songs or rhythms to learn and memorise information, and may work best with music playing in the background. Frequent users of musical/ rhythmic intelligence are composers, conductors, singers, DJs and musicians. Among the people who were high on this type are Mozart, Ravi Shankar and Amaradeva. 6. Interpersonal Intelligence This is essentially about the capability of dealing with others. Those who are high on interpersonal intelligence are characterised by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They communicate effectively and empathise easily with others, and may be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate. Careers which suit those with this intelligence include teachers, salespersons, social workers, counsellors, medical doctors, nurses and psychiatrists. Mother Theresa, John F. Kennedy and Denzil Kobbekaduwa can be some of the names associated with high level of interpersonal intelligence. 7. Intrapersonal Intelligence This talks about an inwards journey. It is to do with learning about oneself and learning from oneself. The key theme is self reflection. Those who are high on intrapersonal intelligence are usually have a higher level of self-awareness and are capable of understanding their own emotions, feelings and inner drives.  They learn best when allowed to concentrate on the subject by themselves. There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence. Careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists. Among the people who are high on intrapersonal intelligence are Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Krishnamurthy and E.W. Adikaram. b. Naturalistic Intelligence Interestingly, this is the latest addition to the list of multiple intelligences in 1999. The focal area here is to do with nature, nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings. Those with it are said to have greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it, the ability to nurture and grow things, and greater ease in caring for, taming and interacting with animals. They can discern changes in weather or similar fluctuations in their natural surroundings. They are also good at recognising and classifying different species. “Naturalists” learn best when the subject involves collecting and analysing, or is closely related to something prominent in nature. Those who need this intelligence at a high level are biologists, zoologists, botanists, environmentalists, landscapers and nature guides. Among the people who are high on this, Charles Darwin, Leonard Woolf and Irangani Serasinghe can be cited. Martin Appuhamy, a close associate of Sinharaja Forest who knows the ins and outs of flaura and fauna found there, is another classic example. Way forward The awareness on multiple intelligences has multiple usages in the areas of education and training. It can enhance the quality and relevance of both education and training. With proper understanding of multiple intelligences, one can approach designing and delivering of learning programs in a more impactful manner. Such an attempt will pave the way for enriching lives through humane results. (Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri works at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He can be reached on [email protected] or

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