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What Does It Mean To Be ‘Intelligent’?

Updated: Sep 7

By Deshna Jain


What does it mean to be ‘intelligent’?




Howard Gardner, a famous psychologist, proposed the Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983 in his book, "Frames of Mind". Let’s look at this theory in some detail with some examples.

Rahul loves spending time outdoors and observing patterns and changes in nature. He can tell birds apart from their sounds.

Rahul might not score very well in his exams, but he has high NATURALISTIC INTELLIGENCE.

Naturalistic Intelligence refers to a person's ability to recognise features of the natural world and use that knowledge to benefit oneself, others or the environment. Professionals like geologists and biologists all have this intelligence.

Sarah is good at sports. She has won many awards for her school team in football and is also great at table tennis.Sarah might not clear those Math exams, but she has high BODILY-KINESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE.

Bodily kinesthetic Intelligence refers to a person's ability in using entire or parts of the body to process information, solve problems and having complete control over their movements and reflexes. All athletes and even surgeons and builders have this intelligence

Elsa loves to sing. She wants to become a musician one day and is learning to play the piano. Her music teacher says she is a natural. Elsa’s gift cannot be reduced to a hobby or skill. She has high MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE.

Musical Intelligence refers to a person's ability in creating musical patterns and rhythms. Singers, composers and instrumentalists all have this type of intelligence.

Priya likes to study. She easily understands difficult concepts in Math and Science and is always able to score well. She has high LOGICAL-MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCE.


Logical-mathematical Intelligence refers to a person's ability in solving simple and complex problems with ease; and signifies the capability for scientific thinking and logical applications. Mathematicians, scientists and researchers have this type of intelligence.

Arya loves reading novels. She sometimes writes short stories of her own. She has also won many debate events in school. This is what is called high LINGUISTIC INTELLIGENCE.


Linguistic Intelligence refers to a person's fluency in speaking and writing, understanding oral and written concepts. Writers, lawyers and journalists have high linguistic intelligence.

Varun is enjoys painting. He notices different colors, shapes and patterns easily. He can visualize abstract concepts very well. He also likes to read comics and picture books. Safe to say, Varun has high VISUAL-SPACIAL INTELLIGENCE.

Visual-Spatial Intelligence refers to a person's ability to visualize objects, structures and geographical areas in your mind, creating and understanding graphs, blueprints and maps. Architects are painters are some professionals who possess this intelligence.

Hamza has a charming personality. He can easily talk to people and has many friends. He loves going to social events and meeting new people. Hamza isn’t a social butterfly, he has high INTERPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE.

Interpersonal Intelligence refers to a person's ability to recognise the feelings and emotions of other people and effectively communicate with them. Humza can become a good psychologist, counselor, or tour planner and guide.

Nadia is intuitive, self-aware and independent. She has a way of solving problems that she comes across with ease. She has high INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE.

Intrapersonal Intelligence refers to a person's ability to recognise your own thoughts and feelings and take them into account while making decisions and problem solving. Many great thinkers and philosophers had this kind of intelligence.

Intelligence is not a uni-dimensional concept. Reducing a child’s potential to their skill in academics is very hindering of their unique talents. Humans are built to master different arts and music, sports, and even arithmetic is just one aspect of intelligence. The best way to ensure a child is successful and happy, is to let them and help them hone the skills they are their best at, or want to be great at.

The bottom note is that marks aren’t everything; becoming a doctor or a lawyer isn’t everything. It’s good to study. It’s important – but not at the cost of what a child’s true potential is.



Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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