If you believe there's more to intelligence than IQ, you're not alone. We now know that people can be smart in a number of different areas. It's called The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. On top of the usual math, logic and language smarts, you can be smart in music, in physical movement, in visualization abilities, and even in your dealings with other people. All of us have different abilities, talents, and strengths, in different categories of intelligence, and in different combinations. Recognizing the unique way you think, learn and solve problems can help you realize your full potential at work or play. Perhaps more importantly, it can help you realize that you're smarter than you ever thought you were. So... How are you smart?



Words, words, words... it's how you use them that counts in linguistic intelligence. If you can talk your way out of a jam, write an excellent complaint letter, or read assembly instructions (and understand them!), you've got linguistic intelligence. Writers, scholars and journalists have strengths in this area. Linguistically gifted people include William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Northrop Frye.



Even if you've never run a marathon or captained a sports team, physical intelligence means you can get your body to do what you want it to, whether you're moving your little finger or whole body, acting onstage, shooting a hockey puck, or performing surgery. Babe Ruth, Rudolf Nureyev, and Maurice Richard had this kind of intelligence in spades.



If you can enjoy music, can carry a tune, tell if someone is singing flat, or tap out a rhythm, you've got musical intelligence. This kind of intelligence is strong in musicians, and exhibited by people such as Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Glenn Gould.



If you can draw realistic images or navigate a mall after looking at the directory once, you've got spatial smarts and visual intelligence. This kind of intelligence is about seeing the world in pictures and being able to visualize and manipulate objects inside your head. Artists, designers and architects have lots of visual smarts, as exemplified by people like Pablo Picasso, Yousef Karsh, and Emily Carr.



Have you ever looked at the expression on a stranger's face and known exactly what he or she was feeling? If you have, did you know exactly what to say to make things better? If the answer is yes, you've got social intelligence, and you may do well as a social worker, teacher or sales-person. Examples of those with great social intelligence include Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Tommy Douglas.



If your friends ask you to calculate the tip or program their phone, or if you know how much 1/3 tsp turns into when you quadruple the recipe, you've got logical intelligence and a way with numbers, problems and puzzles. Logical intelligence is more developed in scientists, programmers and philosophers. Individuals with high levels of this intelligence include Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Frederick Banting, and Marie Curie.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Multiple Intelligences?

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was developed by Howard Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Gardner states that people have a variety of intelligences, rather than just one central intelligence. People draw on varying combinations of intelligences in everyday life depending on the activity at hand and their own strengths and weaknesses.

What are the categories of intelligence?

In Gardner’s original theory, he identified seven areas of intelligence: Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Logical-Mathematical, Linguistic, Spatial, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal.

For the purposes of the series, we’ve chosen to focus on six of them. See the top of this page for a detailed description of the categories of smarts.

The theory has now expanded to include an eighth intelligence – naturalist – and a ninth called existential is being considered.

How do you test the Multiple Intelligences?

There is no standardized test to measure Multiple Intelligences. There are some reliable assessments that can help people identify their strengths. However, Gardner argues that standardized tests are not always the best means for identifying intelligence. They are often limited to calculations entailing paper and pencil, or computer keyboards, and don’t take into account a range of intelligences.

The challenges in Canada’s Smartest Person have been designed to draw on resources and tools that reflect various real-life applications of the intelligences.

What brain evidence exists to support Multiple Intelligences theory?

Researchers often understand how normal brains work by studying individuals with abnormal brain function. They study people who are exceptionally good at certain tasks, or can’t complete certain tasks, in order to locate exactly where in the brain certain thought processes happen.

Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), we know that specific areas of the brain light up (indicating activity in that area) when people are asked to perform certain tasks.

The more activity seen on the scan, the more energy the brain is putting towards the task. The more energy dedicated to the task, the quicker and more effective the response.

These two concepts – that there are areas of the brain dedicated to certain tasks and that different people have different processing power when completing these tasks – make a strong case for diverse intelligences at work in the brain.

Can I “grow” my intelligences or is what I’m born with what I’ve got?

The short answer to the question is, yes, you can increase your intelligences. With practice and experience, people draw on increasingly effective ways of solving problems. Multiple Intelligences theory actually lends itself to helping people figure out strategies to help them increase their intelligence capacity.

Is it better to have a good amount of intelligence in all the areas or a lot of intelligence in one?

Gardner talks about two different intellectual profiles – laser and searchlight. Laser profiles refer to individuals who tend to have great strength in one or two intelligence categories. Having a laser profile is seen as helpful in particular areas such as science and art where the goal is to generate new ideas, products or inventions.

Searchlight profiles refer to individuals who tend to have strength in many or all categories – like “Canada’s Smartest Person”! People with searchlight profiles draw on their diverse intelligences to solve problems. This type of ability is used in sifting through large amounts information and being able to see and understand “the big picture.”

Some people like to debate which profile is ideal but many MI psychologists and researchers believe both profiles are useful for different activities. For example, in a large company you need to have people who focus only on research and development (laser profile), as well as a strong CEO who can oversee every aspect of the company (searchlight profile).

How does Multiple Intelligences theory relate to my work?

We all bring our unique intelligence profile into our careers. Most people gravitate towards jobs that they enjoy doing and have an aptitude for, which is usually the result of having intellectual strengths in those areas.

This chart shows you examples of careers associated with different intelligences:

Type of Intelligence

Careers that may suit you


Audiologist, choir director, composer, conductor, DJ, music critic, music teacher, music producer, musician, piano tuner, singer, songwriter, sound engineer, voice coach


Animator, architect, artist, engineer, interior designer, inventor, landscape designer, outdoor guide, photographer, pilot, sculptor, urban planner, webmaster, radiologist


Actor, acupuncturist, athlete, chef, choreographer, coach, craftsperson, dancer, fitness instructor, firefighter, gardener, massage therapist, mechanic, personal trainer, physiotherapist, yoga instructor


Communications specialist, copy-writer, editor, journalist, lawyer, librarian, linguist, marketing/media consultant, newscaster, poet, politician, public relations consultant, salesperson, speech pathologist, teacher, translator, voice-over artist, writer


Manager, clergy, coach, doctor, human resources manager, mediator, nurse, politician, psychologist, salesperson, server, social worker, teacher, therapist, travel agent


Accountant, banker, bookkeeper, computer programmer/technician, computer analyst, detective, doctor, engineer, insurance broker, lawyer, researcher, scientist, statistician, trader

How can I use Multiple Intelligences theory to help my young children learn?

Multiple Intelligences theory is highly applicable to education. Understanding which intelligences your child is strongest in will show you the way they learn best. If you are trying to help them learn new information or a new skill, you can suggest particular strategies that work for them.

For example, if there is a tough concept in math your child is trying to master and s/he has strength in visual smarts, you might suggest they represent the numbers as pictures. If they have physical smarts, they could find physical items to represent the numbers and work with those. Parents and teachers can help children acquire knowledge and skills according to their unique aptitudes.


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