In a previous video, we looked at how the eight intelligences in Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, develop as a result of nature (e.g. genetics etc.), nurture (e.g. education, parenting etc.), and culture (the broader social-historical context in which we find ourselves). Adding to this understanding is the fact that each of the eight intelligences has a different developmental trajectory; in other words, each one has its time of emerging in our lives, peaking sometime during the life span, and then rapidly or gradually declining (or improving) as we get older.
Here are a few examples of what I mean. Musical intelligence seems to develop earliest in the lifespan of all the intelligences. Mozart was composing at the age of four. And musical intelligence seems to stay relatively robust into old age. Verdi was writing operas into his eighties. Logical-mathematical intelligence, however, has a different developmental trajectory. It doesn’t develop as early as musical intelligence, but it peaks relatively early in the human life span. In fact, many of the greatest mathematical and scientific discoveries in history have been made by teenagers (e.g. Blaise Pascal) and people in their early twenties (e.g. Einstein and Isaac Newton). It’s even said among professional mathematicians that if you haven’t made your original contributions to the field by the age of forty, you probably never will.
Intrapersonal (Self Smart) and Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart) differ from musical and logical intelligences in that they tend to get better as we get older. That’s because we acquire life experiences and hopefully learn from them and eventually develop wisdom. You might want to look at the other intelligences (Nature Smart, Body Smart, Picture Smart, Word Smart) and think about how they might develop in the course of a life. Remember, we’re not saying everyone develops these intelligences according to these patterns, but generally speaking, these trajectories seem to apply to human development as a whole.
This information has practical applications. For example, if you’re in midlife and you want to become expert in a field having had no previous experience in that area (say, win the Nobel Prize in something), Word Smart might be a better choice than Logic Smart. Tony Morrison was almost forty before she wrote her first novel (The Bluest Eye) and went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in her sixties. While older scientists often do receive the Nobel Prize, it’s usually for work they did years and even decades earlier. The Nobel Peace Prize would be another attainment to aim for inasmuch as this award usually goes to individuals who’ve grown wise over time (although clearly there are important exceptions – Malala Yousafzai – was only seventeen when she won the Nobel Prize). At any rate, this focus on how multiple intelligences develop across time provides an interest way to look at the process of human development.
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.