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Gardner's Theory states there are nine possible types of intelligence. Here, we look at what they are, what they could mean for your child, and how you could bring out your child's best.

In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner proposed a theory that there was more than one type of intelligence. In fact, Dr. Gardner, a professor at Harvard University, proposed there were seven different types of intelligence.



The original seven types of intelligence were:


  • "Word Smart"
  • Have a way with written and spoken words
  • Excellent communicators
  • Excel in careers such as journalists, copywriters, teachers, lawyers, and PR consultants
  • May enjoy word games, puns, reading, and poetry


  • "Number Smart/Reasoning Smart"
  • Skilled with detecting and analysing problems
  • Able to perform mathematic calculations
  • Enjoys scientific reasoning
  • Excel in careers such as analysts, computer programmers, statisticians, researchers, and scientists
  • May enjoy brainteasers, chess, and puzzles


  • "Music Smart"
  • Recognises musical patterns
  • Can tell if a musician is off-key
  • May be a singer, musician, composer, or a music-lover
  • Appreciates the effect music has on emotion
  • Excel in careers such as musical performers, DJs, voice coaches, and acoustic engineers.
  • May sing in a choir or play an instrument


  • "Body Smart"
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Good agility and manual dexterity
  • Enjoys being active; finds it hard to be still for too long
  • Excel in careers such as dancers, athletes, physical therapists, physical education teachers, and anthropologists.
  • May enjoy origami, building models, running, horse-riding, walking in woodland, and riding rollercoasters.


  • "Picture Smart"
  • Skilled with the creation and interpretation of visual images
  • Can clearly recall visual details
  • Sensitive to the effects of colour
  • Excel in careers such as photographer, architect, sculptor, artist, cartographer, and city-planner
  • May enjoy jigsaw puzzles, reading books with lots of pictures, painting or other graphic arts, and learning to read maps


  • "People Smart"
  • Able to relate well to others
  • Can interpret the behavior of other people
  • Enjoy socialising; may belong to organisations
  • Enjoy teaching other children
  • Excel in careers such as teacher, advertising, mentor, counsellor, healthcare professional, and psychologist
  • May enjoy team sports


  • "Self Smart"
  • Understands own needs, and own relationships with the world
  • Have a realistic view of own strengths and weaknesses
  • Has good self-esteem
  • Excel in careers such as psychologist, entrepreneur, therapist, theologian, and psychology teacher.
  • May keep a diary or enjoy private hobbies.

However, that's not the end of the story

Gardner has since discovered two more kinds of intelligence, and admits that there may be other types that are yet to be uncovered:

Naturalist Intelligence

  • "Nature Smart"
  • Discovered in 1994
  • Love exploring, getting their hands dirty
  • See the beauty of the world
  • Instinctively know if people or pets feel unwell
  • Excel in careers such as scientist, naturalist, landscape architect, gardener, or veterinarian.
  • May read nature books, keep scrapbooks, collect natural objects (rocks, shells, fossils); may enjoy camping

Existential Intelligence

  • "Wondering Smart"
  • Discussed in 1999
  • Sometimes regarded as the 8-and-a-half intelligence (rather than a separate intelligence of its own)
  • Enjoys tackling deep questions about human existence ("Why are we here"; "What happens when we die?")
  • Excel in careers such as scientist, philosopher, theologian, and member of the clergy.
  • May ask more of the "big questions" that adults find it difficult to answer
Gardner states that children of four and five start displaying tendencies towards one intelligence, showing the associated strengths and weaknesses.
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