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Different Views of Intelligence

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The value of learning style theory, MI (multiple intelligences) theory and other ideas we have looked at in this chapter is that they provide us with more questions with which to probe human behavior and different ways of understanding it.


The posting below looks at ideas about different forms of intelligence.  It is from Chapter 9 – Education and psychological research, in the book, Introduction to Education Studies, by Steve Bartlett and Diana Burton. Published by SAGE Publications Ltd, 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London EC1Y 1SP.  © Steve Bartlett and Diana Burton 2016. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.



Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Provoking Potentials: Student Self-Evaluated and Socially-Mediated Testing


Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

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Different Views of Intelligence



Triarchic and multiple intelligences

Debate about whether a single intelligence can be identified or whether intellectual power is better characterized as multiple intelligences continues to exercise contemporary theorists. Those who favour an information-processing exploration of human understanding, Robert Sternberg in the USA for example, describe intelligence in relation to its cognitive components. Sternberg (1985) proposed a triarchic model of intelligence comprising three major aspects that interact with one another: analytical, creative and practical thinking:

Analytical or componential intelligence is what is normally measured on IQ and achievement tests – planning, organizing and remembering facts then applying them to new situations.

Creative or experiential intelligence is the ability to see new connections between things and to develop original ideas.

Practical or contextual intelligence is the ability to read situations and people, and manipulate them to best advantage.

Neither experiential nor practical intelligence is measured in IQ tests according to Sternberg (2011) and yet, beyond schooling, these are probably needed at least as much as analytical intelligence.

Much research effort has also been put into understanding genius, giftedness and creativity in relation to normal intelligence. Sternberg and O’Hara (1999) reviewed research into the relationship between intelligence and creativity, concluding that psychologists had not reached a consensus about the relation between creativity and intelligence nor even a shared understanding of what these two constructs are. Sternberg’s later work (2003b; 2005) argued for a model of intelligence that involves synthesizing wisdom, intelligence and creativity (WICS). He bemoaned the fact that Western society is organized around a closed system of selection that defines intelligence very narrowly. He counselled that giftedness is ultimately just expertise in development and that all measures of giftedness assess some kind of expertise to some extent. Research into creativity and its relationship with intelligence is vast and fascinating, and we cannot begin to do justice to it here. It has been of particular interest to those studying special educational needs but is a very important area for all students of education, particularly intending teachers and would form a good dissertation or masters’ level focus.

Howard Gardner (1983; 1995; 2011) is well known for shunning a unitary explanation of intelligence, developing instead his theory of multiple intelligences (MI). Eight distinct intelligences are said to exist independently of one another: linguistic, spatial, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist. Gardner explained that individuals have different entry points to learning depending on the strength of their various intelligences. Sternberg (1999) pointed out that, although Gardner cited evidence to support his theory, he had not carried out research directly to test his model. Scott (2013) argues there is still very little hard research evidence available for MI theory; however, since we all recognize in ourselves some tendency to be better at some things than others, Gardner’s theory seems intuitively to be relevant. However, if one sees cognition as the processing of information using fairly universal sets of mental strategies, it is difficult to conceive of separate, discrete intelligences. White (2005) critiqued Gardner’s theory in detail, questioning the criteria on which the designation of an intelligence is based and pointing out that much intelligence behavior can often rely on more than one of Gardner’s intelligences at once. Hayes (2010) points out that Gardner drew much of his evidence from high-achieving people but ignored the effect on them of social influences which, as we will see in Chapter 10, can have a powerful impact on an individual’s success or failure. Although he never intended its application to education (Cerruti, 2013), Gardner’s work has become very popular in educational circles, possibly because it offers an alternative to the view of intelligence as unitary and fairly stable, encouraging instead a focus on developing particular individual capabilities to their highest potential.

Silver et al. (1997) advocated a synthesis of Gardner’s MI theory with their own learning style theory, arguing that the former offers ideas about the content and context of learning while the latter elucidates the generalized processes of learning within which can be observed individual differences. Their integrated model of style and MI suggests how different combinations might translate into vocations, for example logical-mathematical intelligence within a person with a mastery learning style might lead to a job as an accountant. Where it combines with an interpersonal learning style it is suggested the vocation might be a tradesperson or homemaker. There can be dangers in being overly enthusiastic about such an approach, of course, since the integration of a different model of learning style with MI theory could elicit a whole range of other vocational trends [Note 1].

The value of learning style theory, MI theory and other ideas we have looked at in this chapter is that they provide us with more questions with which to probe human behavior and different ways of understanding it. Theoretical and empirical categorizations help us to make sense of our observations but attempting to characterize different types of learning or vocation too precisely can obscure our focus on the individual differences between people which make them unique.

Emotional intelligence

A popular construct within the field of intelligence research is that of emotional intelligence (EI) (Goleman, 1995; 2006; 2011; Mayer et al., 2004; Petrides, 2009; Petrides et al., 2011; Salovey and Mayer, 1990). While there is debate about the existence of discrete brain structures (the limbic system) for emotional experience and behavior, there can be no doubt that an individual’s emotional state and ability to deal with his feelings can impact on his educational performance. Traditionally this ‘affective’ domain of experience has been little more than acknowledged by educators with their main focus being on the ‘cognitive’ domain. It is now receiving more attention as a result of Goleman’s popular work. He has related the ability to control impulses, motivate oneself and regulate moods to improved thinking and learning.

EI projects trend to combine common sense and neuroscience. Research has focused on the role of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain just behind the forehead, which develops most rapidly between the ages of three and eight. This mediates our emotional impulses, which come from the amygdala. The amygdala, part of the limbic system that controls and processes emotional experience and behavior, takes over when someone is frightened or stressed (this is the well-known fight or flight mechanism that ensures survival) (OECD, 2005). It directs some of our most powerful and primitive feelings, such as fear, straight to all the major centres of the brain before the neocortex – the site of more rational reactions – has time to react. The amygdala thus controls the routing of information to the cortex, where it is stored as long-term memory; if a learner is frightened, perhaps of failure or reprisals, this transfer stops and long-term learning is prevented. The job of the prefrontal cortex is to manage some of these instinctive emotions, dampening some of the signals generated by the amygdala and weighing up appropriate reactions.

Nettelbeck and Wilson (2005) concluded from their review of past and current intelligence theories that the existence of emotional intelligence cannot yet be confirmed. Petrides et al. (2011) examined the relationship between EI and personality factors but Cooper (2010) believes that EI questionnaires are themselves simply measuring familiar personality traits. In a 2002 DfES (see Clarke et al., 2015) commissioned study researchers found that schools developing programmes which fostered the emotional health of staff and pupils showed marked improvements in behavior and learning, social cohesion, staff morale and confidence, and academic results. They did not, however, confirm a direct link between promoting emotional literacy and raising standards; this would be very difficult because isolating EI as the only variable making a difference would be almost impossible. However, Qualter et al. (2012) did establish a causal link between emotional intelligence and academic achievement. Notwithstanding the rather mixed nature of the research evidence, EI has become enormously influential within education, training and workplace settings. Banerjee et al. (2014: 720) reported that ‘recent research has underlined the potential benefits of universal (i.e. not solely targeted at selected pupils known to have particular difficulties or vulnerabilities) work on social and emotional learning at school’. We will look at the application of EI in a little more detail in Chapter 11.

Video Discussion

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Psychological research and pedagogy

This video clip discusses issues that are also relevant to Chapter 11.


Banerjee, R., Weare, K. and Farr, W. (2014) ‘Working with “Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning” (SEAL): associations with school ethos, pupil social experiences, attendance, and attainment’,[E3]  British Educational Research Journal, 40: 718-42.

Cerruti, C. (2013) ‘Building a functional multiple intelligences theory to advance educational neuroscience’, Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 950-6.

Clarke, A.M., Morreale, S., Field, C.A., Hussein, Y., & Barry, M.M. (2015) ‘What works in enhancing social and emotional skills development during childhood and adolescence? A review of the evidence on the effectiveness of school-based and out-of-school programmes in the UK.’ A report produced by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research, National University of Ireland, Galway.

Cooper, C. (2010) Individual Differences and Personality, 3rd edn. London: Hodder Education.

Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (2011) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (1995) ‘Reflections on multiple intelligences: myths and messages’, Phi Delta Kappan, 77: 200-3, 206-9.

Goleman, D. (2011) The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights [e-book]. More Than Sound L.L.C.

Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.

Goleman, D. (2006) Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, 10th anniversary edn. New York: Bantam Books.

Hayes, N. (2010) Understand Psychology. London: Hodder Education.

Mayer, J.D., Salovey, P. and Caruso, D.R. (2004) ‘Emotional intelligence: theory, findings, and implications’, Psychological Inquiry, 15 (3): 197-215.

Nettelbeck, T. and Wilson, C. (2005) ‘Intelligence and IQ: what teachers should know’, Educational Psychology, 25 (6): 609-30.

OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) (2005) Learning Sciences and Brain Research Project. Online at: (accessed 30 October 2015).

Petrides, K. V. (2009) Technical Manual for the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaires (TEIQue). London: London Psychometric Laboratory.

Petrides, K. V., Vernon, P.A., Aitken Schermer, J. and Veselka, L. (2011) ‘Trait emotional intelligence and the dark triad traits of personality’, Twin Research and Human Genetics, 14 (1): 35-41.

Silver, H., Strong, R. and Perini, M. (1997) ‘Integrating learning styles and multiple intelligences’, Educational Leadership, 55 (1): 22-7.

Sternberg, R. J. (1985) Beyond IQ: A Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (1999) ‘Intelligence’, in R. P. Wilson and F. C. Keil (eds), The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (2011) ‘The theory of successful intelligence’, in R. J. Sternberg and S. Kaufman (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (2005) ‘WICS: a model of positive educational leadership comprising wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized’, Educational Psychology Review, 17 (3): 191-262.

Sternberg, R. J. (2003b) ‘WICS as a model of giftedness’, High Ability Studies, 14(2): 109-37.

White, J. (2005) Howard Gardner: The Myth of Multiple Intelligences, Viewpoint No. 16. London: Institute of Education.







 [E1]When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.

 [E2]There is no citation for this reference below.  It is probably this:   Qualter, P., Gardner, K.J., Pope, D., Hutchinson, J.M. and Whiteley, H.E. (2012) Ability, emotional intelligence, trait emotional intelligence, and academic success in British secondary schools: a 5-year longitudinal study. Learning and Individual Differences, 22 (1). pp. 83-91.

But interested folks can probably track it down as I did.

 [E3]Technically the comma should go inside the quote mark, but he’s consistent throughout the references, and it may be a “British thing” so I wouldn’t change it.