The rain­bow of in­tel­li­gences

Financial Chronicle - - EDIT, OPED, THE WORKS - ZEHRA NAQVI

IN­TEL­LI­GENCE has proved to be one of the most de­sir­able qual­i­ties in an in­di­vid­ual — sec­ond only, per­haps, to beauty. At the very least, in­tel­li­gence earns re­spect, at the high­est level it earns awe and fame — and money. And yet, in­tel­li­gence has been pi­geon­holed into the nar­row­est of def­i­ni­tions, lim­ited to a pre-de­ter­mined set of at­ti­tudes and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In the sphere of learn­ing, a child’s progress is greatly hin­dered by this pi­geon­hol­ing; not recog­nis­ing the po­ten­tial in a mul­ti­tude of other fields.

In 1983, Amer­i­can de­vel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Howard Gard­ner de­fined no less than nine types of in­tel­li­gences that can be pos­sessed by an in­di­vid­ual. The in­tel­li­gences de­fined by him are as fol­lows: nat­u­ral­ist in­tel­li­gence, which des­ig­nates the hu­man abil­ity to dis­crim­i­nate among liv­ing things (plants, an­i­mals) as well as sen­si­tiv­ity to other fea­tures of the nat­u­ral world (clouds, rock con­fig­u­ra­tions). This type of in­tel­li­gence most ob­vi­ously is of core value to sci­en­tists and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, but also plays a very sig­nif­i­cant role in tech­nol­ogy and de­sign — be­cause it in­di­cates an in­di­vid­ual that pays at­ten­tion to de­tail and to the uni­verse around him. The sec­ond cat­e­gory de­fined is mu­si­cal in­tel­li­gence, which is the ca­pac­ity to dis­cern pitch, rhythm, tim­bre, and tone, en­abling a per­son to recog­nise, cre­ate, re­pro­duce, and re­flect on mu­sic. The ap­pli­ca­tions of that one, of course, are self-ex­plana­tory. The third kind of in­tel­li­gence is log­i­cal-math­e­mat­i­cal in­tel­li­gence which in­di­cates an in­cli­na­tion to­wards sys­tem­atic prob­lem solv­ing, logic, rea­son­ing, in­duc­tive and de­duc­tive think­ing pat­terns.

The fourth is one of the less ob­vi­ous ones — termed Ex­is­ten­tial in­tel­li­gence. This is the kind that’s pos­sessed by philoso­phers and great writ­ers — a ca­pac­ity to con­tem­plate deep ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions of who we are, where we orig­i­nated, the mean­ing and pur­pose of life, and so forth. And then comes in­ter­per­sonal in­tel­li­gence, which de­notes the abil­ity to un­der­stand and in­ter­act ef­fec­tively with oth­ers through ver­bal and non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, sen­si­tiv­ity to the tem­per­a­ments of oth­ers, and the abil­ity to en­ter­tain mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives. In­ter­est­ingly, these skills also mir­ror the qual­i­ties of a good leader.

The sixth kind is bod­i­lykines­thetic in­tel­li­gence which in­volves the abil­ity to co-or­di­nate the mind and body, to use the body’s skills to per­fec­tion — as dis­played by ath­letes, dancers, sur­geons and the like. The sev­enth cat­e­gory be­longs to lin­guis­tic in­tel­li­gence, which in­di­cates ex­per­tise in ex­press­ing and ar­tic­u­lat­ing, and work­ing with lan­guage in myr­iad ways. The eighth one is again in­trigu­ing in its de­scrip­tion, for it is in­tra-per­sonal in­tel­li­gence — again a trait ex­hib­ited by philoso­phers and spiritualists, even writ­ers and artists — which de­notes an abil­ity to deeply un­der­stand the self: one’s thoughts, emo­tions and ideas, which in a larger per­spec­tive de­notes an abil­ity to un­der­stand deeply the hu­man con­di­tion.

The ninth and fi­nal kind of in­tel­li­gence is again fas­ci­nat­ing: Spa­tial in­tel­li­gence — the abil­ity to think in three di­men­sions. This de­notes a ca­pac­ity for men­tal im­agery, spa­tial rea­son­ing, im­age ma­nip­u­la­tion, graphic and artis­tic skills, and an ac­tive imag­i­na­tion. In­stances of this kind of in­tel­li­gence may be found in sailors, pi­lots, sculp­tors, painters, ar­chi­tects, graphic de­sign­ers and the like.

At the time when Gard­ner pro­posed these cat­e­gories, in­tel­li­gence was considered only to be math­e­mat­i­cal of lin­guis­tic. But the di­vi­sion of in­tel­li­gence into such vary­ing streams opens up a lim­it­less uni­verse of end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties be­fore the in­di­vid­ual, ev­ery sin­gle one of them cru­cial to push­ing the pin­na­cle of hu­man achieve­ment and en­deav­our. It brings colour and di­ver­sity to our uni­verse which is but ob­vi­ously dy­namic in na­ture. To re­duce hu­man ca­pac­ity and in­tel­li­gence to just two cat­e­gories is to paint the world in black and white. And that would be a sad world in­deed with­out all its brilliant colours.

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