There’s a growing awareness in the scientific community that animals are far more intelligent than we previously supposed (for an excellent summary of what’s known about ”animal cognition” click here). Now we can expand our understanding of this field by connecting it to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner says there are eight (or possibly nine) different intelligences that make up human cognition, and he actually made ”intelligence in other species” one of his key criteria in establishing his theory. He suggests that we can find instances of intelligence in other animals in all of his intelligences. Here are some examples:
- Birds – musical, spatial intelligence, and interavian intelligence (cf. interpersonal intelligence for humans)
- Bees – spatial and interapian intelligence
- Anteaters – bodily-kinesthetic intelligence for their ability to use tools (along with numerous other species)
- Apes – linguistic intelligences (using sign language); apes also show an elementary form of intrasimian (cf. intrapersonal) intelligence in the self-recognition they show when looking at a mirror
- Elephants – existential intelligence (in their ability to mourn the dead)
- Virtually all animals demonstrate the naturalist intelligence in their intuitive ability discriminate and respond to the natural world.
Opening ourselves to the cognitive world of other animals than ourselves can instill a sense of deep respect for them at a time when they are in danger of being wiped out by human predations (from our eating animals to destroying their habitats in nature). We might take a cue from indigenous populations who have long lived in harmony with other species, and develop a deep level of appreciation for the great diversity of intelligences that exist in the animal kingdom.
For more information about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, get my practical guides to multiple intelligences for:
- Adult learners (7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences)
- Educators who teach children and adolescents — kindergarten through high school (Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th edition) and/or
- Parents (In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences).
This blog post was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @Dr_Armstrong.