Are you smart?
If you're asking Howard Gardner, the only response to that question is, "smart at what?"
It has been over two decades since the Harvard psychologist and author first introduced his concept of multiple intelligences and forever changed the way many think about IQ and aptitude.
He initially identified seven distinct intelligences or talents, each of which is associated with activity in a specific area of the brain. In his book Intelligence Reframed, Gardner added an eighth pillar to his multiple-intelligence edifice. And he says he's not ruling out the possibility of growing that list in the future.
Roughly speaking, the intelligences line up this way:
- Naturalist/organization (the new addition)
What you do for a living usually reveals a great deal about your intelligences. If you're dissatisfied with your work, look closely, there may be an aspect of the job that doesn't come naturally. Maybe you don't need a career change but a re-assignment.
Identifying your multiple intelligences also may help you find niches in your chosen field, like the cop whose naturalist gifts (the intelligence based on early man's ability to observe and catalog nature) leads him to a head position in the records division.
Unlike IQ and academic tests that look only at quantitative data, Gardner's model offers a far broader definition of intellect and talent. An ability to sing on key, recite poetry or recall the details of various paintings on a museum wall are all considered signs of particular intelligences. Gardner is also quick to note that just because you don't have a natural talent for something, doesn't mean you can't learn to be smarter in a particular area.
Many aptitude tests encourage people to dismiss those areas in which they are least strong, but Gardner's multiple intelligences offers an opportunity to look at your weaknesses and challenge your brain to improve in those areas. So if you've shied away from writing ever since receiving a poor grade on your high school term paper, maybe it's time you developed your verbal skills with something as simple as keeping a journal.