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What Are Your Personal Intelligences and How Do You Use Them



You have not one, but at least seven personal intelligences, and you can use most of them to enhance your learning. So says Ron Gross, a favorite contributing writer here at About Continuing Education. He's given permission to reprint this intelligence inventory from his book, Peak Learning: How to Create Your Own Lifelong Education Program for Personal Enlightenment and Professional Success:

Most people still believe that their capacity to learn is determined by intelligence.

We all recall having our IQ taken at some point in our childhood, and most of us know the results. The IQ test was supposed to measure your capacity to learn, and therefore to predict your success in school. However, contemporary psychologists have debunked the whole idea of a single capacity called intelligence. Here you'll learn about seven intelligences we all have.

Each intelligence in this sense is a particular kind of learning talent that seems to come easily. One person may excel at the eye-hand coordination of sports, playing a musical instrument, or solving math problems; another might find it easy to empathize with others' needs, build a birdhouse, or learn a language. The precise combination of skills can arise from a combination of talent and environmental factors.

The best guide to your multiple intelligences is Frames of Mind by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner. Gardner's seven intelligences are:
  1. Linguistic
  2. Logical-mathematical
  3. Spatial
  4. Musical
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic
  6. Intrapersonal (knowing yourself)


  1. Interpersonal (knowing other people)

Most of us have a pretty good idea of which of these intelligences we've cultivated the most and in which we feel strong. As a reminder, however, here's a simple exercise that will pinpoint some of your strengths.

Which Are Your Strong Intelligences?


Circle the numbers of those descriptions that you feel apply to you:
  1. You easily remember nice turns of phrase or memorable quotes and use them deftly in conversation.
  2. You sense quickly when someone you are with is troubled about something.
  3. You are fascinated by scientific and philosophical questions like "When did time begin?"
  4. You can find your way around a new area or neighborhood very quickly.
  5. You are regarded as quite graceful and rarely feel awkward in your movements.
  6. You can sing on key.
  7. You regularly read the science pages of your newspaper and look at magazines on science or technology.
  8. You note other people's errors in using words or grammar, even if you don't correct them.
  9. You often can figure out how something works or how to fix something that's broken, without asking for help.
  10. You can readily imagine how other people play the roles they do in their work or families and imaginatively see yourself in their roles.
  11. You can remember in detail the layout and landmarks of places you've visited on vacations.
  12. You enjoy music and have favorite performers.
  13. You like to draw.
  14. You dance well.
  15. You organize things in your kitchen, bathroom, and at your desk according to categories and in patterns.
  16. You feel confident in interpreting what other people do in terms of what they are feeling.
  17. You like to tell stories and are considered a good storyteller.
  18. You sometimes enjoy different sounds in your environment.
  19. When you meet new people, you often make connections between their characteristics and those of others acquaintances.
  20. You feel you have a keen sense of what you can and can't do.

If all three of any of the following trios applies to you, you probably are strong in that intelligence, even if you haven't cultivated it.

Questions 1, 8, and 17: linguistic intelligence
Questions 6, 12, and 18: musical intelligence
Questions 3, 7, and 15: logical-mathematical intelligence
Questions 4, 11, and 13: spatial intelligence
Questions 5, 9, and 14: bodily-kinesthetic intelligence
Questions 10, 16, and 20: intrapersonal intelligence (knowing yourself)
Questions 2, 10, and 19: interpersonal intelligence (knowing others)

Using Your Intelligences


Whatever your strongest intelligences might be, by selecting among various methods you can assemble a repertoire of ways to learn that capitalize on them. By focusing your learning through your best areas you can make it easier, more rewarding, and more fun. You can build up skills without expecting too much from yourself by challenging yourself to learn something in an unfamiliar way, and by combining skills from as many intelligences as possible, you can learn in a way that is more complete and involving.

Suppose you have a strong spatial intelligence and you're setting out on a study of philosophy. How might you link your learning with your predilection for visual forms, shapes, and patterns?

First, you might seek out the facts of the philosophers by obtaining photos of them and their habitats. Find films and videos, such as Edward de Bono's series Great Thinkers, that feature mock interviews with historical philosophers, or contemporary videos of interviews with noted scholars.

You might also try to make diagrams about what you're learning, using varied colors for the aspects of each master's thoughts. The metaphor of vision as a symbol for insight and understanding will be of particular interest as you read, and you will come across some books that present philosophical ideas visually, such as Maps of the Mind, by Charles Hampden-Turner. You will certainly want to create some fresh visual images of your own that portray the philosophers, problems, principles, or systems you are studying. A diagram comparing Plato to Aristotle, for instance, would be wonderfully illuminating.

Buy Ron's book: Peak Learning: How to Create Your Own Lifelong Education Program for Personal Enlightenment and Professional Success
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