The Gardner Multiple Intelligence Test: What It Is And How It’s Used

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There are thousands of tests available on the internet that claim to measure various dimensions of the human psyche, including personality, cognition, and emotional intelligence. Psychologists and academic researchers may also use certain assessments to measure intelligence. These tests are generally more rigorously developed and validated compared to many online quizzes and are often used in clinical and academic settings. 

One of the most commonly used intelligence tests is Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Test (MIT). To understand how this test works, it can be helpful to know the reasons it was developed and what it can be used for.

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What is the Gardner intelligence test? 

A Gardner Intelligence Test refers to an assessment based on Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner, a Harvard University psychologist, proposed this theory in 1983 with the publication of his book “Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century.” 

Gardner posits that there are many types of intelligence, and that these intelligences are relatively independent faculties. Multiple intelligence theory suggests that having a high ability level in one area does not necessarily predict similar abilities in others. Some may see this theory as a common-sense approach to intelligence assessment, as intelligence is multifaceted and characterized by individual differences in abilities and talents across various domains. 

For example, young people often notice that they find certain subjects in school relatively easy compared to other subjects, or that they find academics challenging but excel in other domains, such as sports or creative pursuits. Gardner suggests that struggling in certain areas doesn't mean you're unintelligent—it can indicate a unique learning style or aptitude for a different type of intelligence.

What are Gardner’s measures of intelligence? 

Gardner proposed that there are eight types of intelligence that all humans possess, with some being stronger than others, depending on your unique profile. These measures include the following categories. 

Musical intelligence

Someone with a high musical-harmonic intelligence type may find it easy to compose music, understand music theory, and play an instrument. A person with musical intelligence may be able to sing, play instruments, read music, identify the key, and keep perfect pitch. These individuals may go on to succeed in a career or education in music. 

Visual-spatial intelligence 

Visual-spatial intelligence refers to the ability to paint a visual picture in your mind. For example, bestselling fiction authors may have excellent spatial judgment, visualizing characters or settings in their minds and translating them to paper. In addition, inventors can see their invention in their mind's eye, often prompting them to create an idea or product that has never been publicly developed. 

Verbal-linguistic intelligence 

Those with high verbal intelligence may excel in areas related to spoken and written language. These individuals may gravitate towards careers as writers or journalists, lyricists, language teachers, or any other profession that heavily relies on the skillful use of language and communication. They know which words to use and can quickly memorize and organize words, grammar, and structure in their minds. These individuals may also enjoy word games, reading, storytelling or learning new languages. 

Logical-mathematical intelligence 

Logical-mathematical intelligence involves more than excelling in math. This type of intelligence is often associated with high critical thinking and reasoning skills and is characteristic of those who excel in problem-solving, abstract thinking, and scientific analysis. These individuals may be able to see multiple sides to a problem, solve and develop equations, and follow the scientific method. They may enjoy strategy games, puzzles, and experiments and pursue careers in fields such as mathematics, engineering, computer science, and other scientific disciplines.

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Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence 

Those with high levels of bodily intelligence are considered naturally adept at physical activity. This trait extends beyond sports, however—high bodily intelligence can help you excel in dancing, acting, martial arts, and other disciplines that require bodily awareness and control. 

This type of intelligence overlaps with many other forms of intelligence. For example, artists who make art with their hands may have high bodily and visual-spatial intelligence. People high in musical intelligence may have high bodily intelligence if they sing or play an instrument. 

Interpersonal intelligence

People with high interpersonal skills often understand and interact well with others. They can read the moods and feelings of other people and may have a good sense of how to effectively navigate social situations. However, you don't have to be extroverted to have high interpersonal intelligence. 

You may have high interpersonal intelligence if you can make conversation easily, enjoy imparting your ideas, and try to see the best in others. Teachers, salespeople, counselors, social workers, and public figures may have a high rating in this category.

Intrapersonal intelligence 

Those with high levels of intrapersonal intelligence are mindful and have high self-awareness. They can recognize their weaknesses, know how to react to a situation, and reflect on their actions. They tend to seek knowledge above all else for self-growth and may enjoy exploring philosophy, psychology, self-help, and spirituality. 

Naturalistic intelligence

Naturalistic intelligence refers to a person with an intuitive understanding of the natural world and its processes. Those who have high naturalist intelligence may succeed in any situation involving nature. For example, hunters may be more successful because they recognize how animals interact with their environments. A botanist may experience a special connection to plants and nature, giving them a talent for classifying and understanding plant life. The farmer's connection with the land provides them with knowledge of how to reap a harvest in the middle of changing conditions.

Other forms of intelligence 

Gardner is still growing and developing his multiple intelligences theory, attempting to find new forms of intelligence and categorize human experience. He has considered “existential intelligence,” where someone thrives on questioning the role humanity has and the purpose of life. Gardner has also investigated “teaching–pedagogical intelligence,” which describes a person’s ability to teach others.

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Criticisms of Gardner's theories 

Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence can provide interesting insights. However, some of its suppositions have not been verified using the scientific method. Some scientists argue that the results can be unreliable or that someone's skill set does not necessarily reflect their intelligence. 

Initially, the test aimed to broaden human understanding of the definition of intelligence and identify intelligence strengths in individuals. As time progressed, professionals began using the test to determine people's projected learning styles and tailor learning curricula to fit those styles. 

While the idea is well-meaning, it can be limited within the context of children's learning and development. To quote Gardner himself, "Multiple intelligences should not, in and of itself, be an educational goal." Gardner also pointed out that people's levels of intelligence can change with time and exposure. For example, if you have a knack for verbal linguistics, you may still be able to cultivate logic-mathematical skills through continued practice.

Gardner's intelligence test was not designed to measure intelligence; however, it can provide insight into your strengths and aptitudes, which may be helpful in making decisions about possible educational or career paths. 

Professional support in interpreting your results 

Psychologically, the Gardner MIT can be helpful for people looking to make a life change. Perhaps they are unhappy with their job and are looking for a more fulfilling career, or maybe they're ready to enter the professional world but unsure where to begin. The test can offer suggestions of how people may excel professionally. 

Consulting with a psychologist may be beneficial if you have questions about your results. In addition to addressing mental health challenges, some people seek therapy to understand life goals, personality, and relationships. However, others may avoid traditional therapy due to inconvenience or financial difficulties. Online counseling through platforms like BetterHelp has revolutionized mental healthcare by eliminating some of these barriers to treatment. 

Online therapy provides a way for people to receive the same quality of treatment available in a traditional setting at home, often at more affordable rates than in-person therapy without insurance. Through online therapy, you can connect with licensed, accredited mental health professionals on your own time via phone, video, or live chat sessions.  

Takeaway

The Gardner Multiple Intelligences Test explores the idea of eight intelligence types. With many intelligence tests focusing on one area of intelligence only, this test attempts to diversify what it means to be smart. However, like other intelligence tests, the Gardner MIT is based on theories and is not a replacement for professional support. To further understand your intelligence and personality, consider reaching out to a licensed counselor for support.

Tests can bring up many emotions

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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