Gardner himself asserts that educators should not follow one specific theory or educational innovation when designing instruction but instead employ customized goals and values appropriate to teaching, subject-matter, and student learning needs. Addressing the multiple intelligences can help instructors pluralize their instruction and methods of assessment and enrich student learning.
The theory of multiple intelligences proposes the differentiation of human intelligence into specific modalities of intelligence, rather than defining intelligence as a single, general ability. The theory has been criticized by mainstream psychology for its lack of empirical evidence, and its dependence on subjective judgement.
Physical intelligence, also known as bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, is any intelligence derived through physical and practiced learning such as sports, dance, or craftsmanship. It may refer to the ability to use one's hands to create, to express oneself with one's body, a reliance on tactile mechanisms and movement, and accuracy in controlling body movement. An individual with high physical intelligence is someone who is adept at using their physical body to solve problems and express ideas and emotions. The ability to control the physical body and the mind-body connection is part of a much broader range of human potential as set out in Howard Gardner's Theory of multiple intelligences.
Gardner suggested that each individual may possess all of the various forms of intelligence to some extent, but that there is always a dominant, or primary, form. Gardner granted each of the different forms of intelligence equal importance, and he proposed that they have the potential to be nurtured and so strengthened, or ignored and weakened. There have been various critiques of Gardner's work, however, predominantly due to the lack of empirical evidence used to support his thinking. Furthermore, some have suggested that the 'intelligences' refer to talents, personality, or ability rather than a distinct form of intelligence.
Although the distinction between intelligences has been set out in great detail, Gardner opposes the idea of labelling learners to a specific intelligence. Gardner maintains that his theory should "empower learners", not restrict them to one modality of learning. According to Gardner, an intelligence is "a biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture." According to a 2006 study, each of the domains proposed by Gardner involves a blend of the general g factor, cognitive abilities other than g, and, in some cases, non-cognitive abilities or personality characteristics.
Intelligence tests and psychometrics have generally found high correlations between different aspects of intelligence, rather than the low correlations which Gardner's theory predicts, supporting the prevailing theory of general intelligence rather than multiple intelligences (MI). The theory has been criticized by mainstream psychology for its lack of empirical evidence, and its dependence on subjective judgement.
A major criticism of the theory is that it is ad hoc: that Gardner is not expanding the definition of the word "intelligence", but rather denies the existence of intelligence as traditionally understood, and instead uses the word "intelligence" where other people have traditionally used words like "ability" and "aptitude". This practice has been criticized by Robert J. Sternberg, Eysenck, and Scarr. White (2006) points out that Gardner's selection and application of criteria for his "intelligences" is subjective and arbitrary, and that a different researcher would likely have come up with different criteria.
Some criticisms arise from the fact that Gardner has not provided a test of his multiple intelligences. He originally defined it as the ability to solve problems that have value in at least one culture, or as something that a student is interested in. He then added a disclaimer that he has no fixed definition, and his classification is more of an artistic judgment than fact:
Andreas Demetriou suggests that theories which overemphasize the autonomy of the domains are as simplistic as the theories that overemphasize the role of general intelligence and ignore the domains. He agrees with Gardner that there are indeed domains of intelligence that are relevantly autonomous of each other. Some of the domains, such as verbal, spatial, mathematical, and social intelligence are identified by most lines of research in psychology. In Demetriou's theory, one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, Gardner is criticized for underestimating the effects exerted on the various domains of intelligences by the various subprocesses that define overall processing efficiency, such as speed of processing, executive functions, working memory, and meta-cognitive processes underlying self-awareness and self-regulation. All of these processes are integral components of general intelligence that regulate the functioning and development of different domains of intelligence.
The premise of the multiple intelligences hypothesis, that human intelligence is a collection of specialist abilities, have been criticized for not being able to explain human adaptation to most if not all environments in the world. In this context, humans are contrasted to social insects that indeed have a distributed "intelligence" of specialists, and such insects may spread to climates resembling that of their origin but the same species never adapt to a wide range of climates from tropical to temperate by building different types of nests and learning what is edible and what is poisonous. While some such as the leafcutter ant grow fungi on leaves, they do not cultivate different species in different environments with different farming techniques as human agriculture does. It is therefore argued that human adaptability stems from a general ability to falsify hypotheses and make more generally accurate predictions and adapt behavior thereafter, and not a set of specialized abilities which would only work under specific environmental conditions.
Many of Gardner's "intelligences" correlate with the g factor, supporting the idea of a single dominant type of intelligence. Each of the domains proposed by Gardner involved a blend of g, of cognitive abilities other than g, and, in some cases, of non-cognitive abilities or of personality characteristics.
The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation has tested hundreds of thousands of people to determine their "aptitudes" ("intelligences"), such as manual dexterity, musical ability, spatial visualization, and memory for numbers. There is correlation of these aptitudes with the g factor, but not all are strongly correlated; correlation between the g factor and "inductive speed" ("quickness in seeing relationships among separate facts, ideas, or observations") is only 0.5, considered a moderate correlation.
Linda Gottfredson (2006) has argued that thousands of studies support the importance of intelligence quotient (IQ) in predicting school and job performance, and numerous other life outcomes. In contrast, empirical support for non-g intelligences is either lacking or very poor. She argued that despite this, the ideas of multiple non-g intelligences are very attractive to many due to the suggestion that everyone can be smart in some way.
To date, there have been no published studies that offer evidence of the validity of the multiple intelligences. In 1994 Sternberg reported finding no empirical studies. In 2000 Allix reported finding no empirical validating studies, and at that time Gardner and Connell conceded that there was "little hard evidence for MI theory" (2000, p. 292). In 2004 Sternberg and Grigerenko stated that there were no validating studies for multiple intelligences, and in 2004 Gardner asserted that he would be "delighted were such evidence to accrue", and admitted that "MI theory has few enthusiasts among psychometricians or others of a traditional psychological background" because they require "psychometric or experimental evidence that allows one to prove the existence of the several intelligences."
... the human brain is unlikely to function via Gardner's multiple intelligences. Taken together the evidence for the intercorrelations of subskills of IQ measures, the evidence for a shared set of genes associated with mathematics, reading, and g, and the evidence for shared and overlapping "what is it?" and "where is it?" neural processing pathways, and shared neural pathways for language, music, motor skills, and emotions suggest that it is unlikely that each of Gardner's intelligences could operate "via a different set of neural mechanisms" (1999, p. 99). Equally important, the evidence for the "what is it?" and "where is it?" processing pathways, for Kahneman's two decision-making systems, and for adapted cognition modules suggests that these cognitive brain specializations have evolved to address very specific problems in our environment. Because Gardner claimed that the intelligences are innate potentialities related to a general content area, MI theory lacks a rationale for the phylogenetic emergence of the intelligences.
Gardner defines an intelligence as "bio-psychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture." According to Gardner, there are more ways to do this than just through logical and linguistic intelligence. Gardner believes that the purpose of schooling "should be to develop intelligences and to help people reach vocational and avocational goals that are appropriate to their particular spectrum of intelligences. People who are helped to do so, [he] believe[s], feel more engaged and competent and therefore more inclined to serve society in a constructive way."[a] 2b1af7f3a8