Howard Gardner on his ‘multiple intelligences’: the theory is no longer current!

Howard Gardner was asked to reply to this question “Reflecting on your life, what has been your greatest accomplishment so far and why?” His reply – a short essay – can be read here.

A first interesting quote:

I termed the resulting categories “intelligences” rather than talents. In so doing I challenged those psychologists who believed that they owned the word “intelligence” and had a monopoly on its definition and measurement. If I had written about human talents, rather than intelligences, I probably would not have been asked to contribute to this volume.

I do understand this reasoning, but as we already discussed on this blog and in our book: the name intelligence includes a predictive element, while MI doesn’t.

Another interesting quote:

Nor, indeed, have I carried out experiments designed to test the theory. This has led some critics to declare that my theory is not empirical. That charge is baloney! The theory is not experimental in the traditional sense (as was my earlier work with brain-damaged patients); but it is strictly empirical, drawing on hundreds of findings from half-a-dozen fields of science.

This quote may raise some discussion, and actually I don’t agree with it neither. It’s not because you have a lot of sources that deliver you input for a theory, that this means you’re theory is tested.

But the most important quote:

At the same time, I readily admit that the theory is no longer current. Several fields of knowledge have advanced significantly since the early 1980s. Any reinvigoration of the theory would require a survey similar to the one that colleagues and I carried out thirty-five years ago. Whether or not I ever carry out such an update, I encourage others to do so.

And that is because I am no longer wedded to the particular list of intelligences that I initially developed. What I – and others, most notably Daniel Goleman and Robert Sternberg -have done is to undermine the hegemony over the concept of intelligence that was maintained for a century by adherents to a Spearman- Binet-Piaget concept of intelligence. I have no idea where the study of intelligence(s) will be a century from now, but I am confident that the field will recognize a plurality of skills, talents, and intelligences.


16 thoughts on “Howard Gardner on his ‘multiple intelligences’: the theory is no longer current!

  1. Reblogged this on X, Y of Einstein? and commented:

    Deze Engelstalige blogpost is ondertussen een paar 1000 keer bekeken, en dat is wellicht niet zo verwonderlijk. Het siert Gardner dat hij dit geschreven heeft. Toch zal dit voor vele mensen die meervoudige intelligenties in het onderwijs als een verrassing komen.
    Concreet: de theorie is nooit door hem echt getest en volgens Gardner zelf is de theorie vandaag verouderd.

  2. […] Last week I received a complaint that I was too kind for Howard Gardner as we didn’t call his multiple intelligences theory a myth. The reason why we used the label ‘nuanced’ is because the basis philosophy that people differ can’t be labeled as wrong. Still we gave a lot of reasons why one should be cautious about this very popular theory. And lately Gardner himself outed the theory as being outdated and ill-researched. […]

  3. […] The real challenge isn’t Kids These Days (I’ll go ahead and follow their lead and abbreviate to KTD).  The real challenge is that in spite of several years now of teachers getting trained ad nauseum on Fixed vs Growth Mindset, many of them do not actually understand/believe its core insight, and cling to a debunked theory of intelligence (even Howard Gardner concedes that it is no longer current). […]

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