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The Six Intelligences


The term intelligence implies a singularly quantifiable human attribute.  People want intelligence to be just one thing; this makes understanding it and measuring it that much easier. But the fact is, it just isn't. If our most intelligent living human is turning parlour tricks for Parade Magazine, Albert Einstein's IQ was only 1 in 1000, and the smartest man to ever live died a failure and a misanthrope, true genius is clearly more than what can be measured on a standard intelligence test.

Somewhere around the age of eleven, a game suggested to me that a separate attribute called ‘wisdom’ also exists.  Intelligence and wisdom seemed overlapping but, as my life progressed, and I met people steeped in one and lacking in the other, I came to recognize important distinctions between the two.

Somewhere near my sixteenth year I was introduced to the concept of ‘emotional intelligence’ –the attribute designating one’s ‘likeability.’  I had hereunto not thought of charisma as a form of intelligence and I initially rejected the correlation.  But as I entered the world of maturity I came to recognize that social capacity is very much a mental ability with many parallels to the pure reasoning of traditional intelligence.

I now had 3 potential facets of human intelligence and began to wonder just how much these three, as popular concepts, overlapped and if they were overlooking any further measures of ‘intelligence’.

Over the course of some years, these ideas fermented in the back of my head until, through frustration at work, they were brought back to the forefront of my mind.

I devised the following list of ‘intelligences’ by running through the catalogue of all the people I have ever known, singling out those that have struck me as either remarkably gifted or remarkably lacking in any particular facet of human ability, and attempting to distill what was the nature of their gift, or lack thereof.

The 6 different types of intelligence:

  • Logical Intelligence
  • Empathetic ‘Social’ Intelligence
  • Creative ‘Abstract’ Intelligence
  • Artistic ‘Sensory’ Intelligence
  • Mnemonic Intelligence
  • Parallel ‘Active’ Intelligence

My common rule of measure for them all is that a ‘higher’ intelligence operates more quickly and to a greater depth than a ‘lower’ intelligence at the tasks specific to that intelligence.

Any intelligence may be developed through practice but is limited by the genetic gifts of the individual.

Logical Intelligence

This is the traditional ‘IQ’.  It has been studied the longest and is the most easily measured.  Common ‘intelligence tests’ measure logical intelligence.  A high logical intelligence is good at reasoning, deducing, and solving.  The logically intelligent are often mathematicians, scientists, and researchers.  Logical intelligence lends itself to developing and following procedures, recognizing patterns, drawing corollaries and developing theorems.

There is good reason for logical intelligence being recognized as the intelligence.  It seems to accent many of the other intellects and it is essential to understanding and undertaking most complex tasks.

Most of the geniuses remembered by history were high in logical intelligence. It seems to vary more widely in men than it does in women (to facilitate hierarchies?).

Empathetic Intelligence

This is what I like to think of as ‘social’ intelligence.  Humans are social animals and social interaction is a large part of our existence.  'Beloved' leaders are people who have developed empathetic intelligence.  Empathetic intelligence can be best measured in the ability to understand the emotional and mental state of another.  Those with high empathetic intelligence do well at commiserating, ‘reading’ others, making themselves ‘likable’ as well as persuading and manipulating.  The emotionally intelligent know what reactions their own actions will produce in others before they act.

Empathetic intelligence is more reliably present in women and seems to be completely separate from logical intelligence.  I have met people who were, logically, complete idiots but had an uncanny understanding of subtle social undercurrents and the opposite, high levels of logic paired with social ineptitude, describes the common 'nerd'. 

Creative Intelligence

This is basically a measure of the breadth of mental associations.  The greater the number of associations made from one starting point, the more ‘creative’ the thought process and the more ‘abstract’ it seems to the less creative observer.  This intelligence is present in “idea people”; they do well with exercizes in randomness, verbal games and creating humor. 

Besides having a wider breadth of mental associations, the creatively intelligent also seem to have a stronger grasp of which associations are the most pertinent, be the situational objective anything from ‘humorous’ to ‘flattering’ to ‘tragic’.  The creatively intelligent can improvise, devise new (although not necessarily successful) solutions to problems and are capable of creating interesting fiction.

On a related note; I believe that humor is the process of presenting an abstract association and then ‘proving’ it to the listener in a surprising manner.

Artistic Intelligence

Although artistic talent is intuitively recognizable, qualifying it is rather difficult.  Artistic intelligence seems to encompass the creation of non-verbal, indirect communication, including music, paintings, sculpture and other forms of design.  Art is strongly associated with the recording of sensory perception and for this reason I sometimes think of this as ‘sensory’ intelligence. 

Although artistic intelligence includes both the mental formulation of, and the actualization of the artist’s ‘vision’ it can be surmised as: the ability to accurately depict the ‘desired’ creation.  Therefore those who have a clear picture of what they want but can not create it and those who are incapable, even, of properly picturing their desired creation are both categorized equally low in artistic intelligence, as there is no way of distinguishing the two.

It should be important to note that the ‘messages’ commonly conveyed through art are not implicit to artistic intelligence but rather to creative intelligence.

Mnemonic Intelligence

This is simply the ability to absorb and store information.  It is important that the information is ‘permanently’ stored, not simply for short term.  High mnemonic intelligence ‘knows’ a lot, absorbs information effectively and is good at trivia.

I believe that there are different ways human minds store information, especially between people of high and low creative intelligence (associatively vs. linearly) but that is the topic of another discussion and for our purposes here it is the end result that matters.

Parallel Intelligence

This is the ability to pursue multiple mental threads simultaneously.  Although the brain can focus on only one thing at a time, further thoughts can be stored in temporary memory and the focus can switch between them as they are needed.  Parallel Intelligence can carry on multiple conversations at once, multitask and multi-manage and has the capacity to excel in games, such as chess, that require looking ahead along multiple possible futures.  This intelligence is necessary for productive leadership and management.

I sometimes think of this as ‘active’ intelligence because is implies actively switching between multiple tasks and implies participation in high energy situations.

I can’t help but think of Napoleon when I think of parallel intelligence – he was reported to be capable of dictating four speeches to four different stenographers at once.



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