The Many Types of Intelligence



Are you smart? Of course you are. But in what ways? We all know that people have different talents. Perhaps there’s a young man in your neighborhood who doesn’t get the top scores on tests in school, but can fix a car, and anything else mechanical, in no time flat. Or a lady in your office who may not be good on the computer, but has a knack for getting along well with everyone. And history is full of examples of highly accomplished artists, scientists, and business leaders who were abject failures in other aspects of their lives. Research into human behavior and psychology has identified six types of intelligence. Everyone has each of these types, in different amounts, and some people are dominant in one or two areas. What are you best at?

1. Self-understanding. This means that you know yourself – what you want, and what you’re good at (and not good at). People with high levels of self-understanding know their particular strengths, and consciously and continually seek out opportunities and positions that capitalize on those strengths. Those who lack self-understanding often put themselves in situations for which they are not suited, leading to frustration and humiliation. Workers who have self-understanding are more motivated, because they find the type of work that leads to rewards that they value. Well-known people who have high self-understanding include Lee Iacocca, Michael Dell, and Bill Gates.

2. Social intelligence. This means that you understand other people, their abilities, weaknesses, and motivations. In today’s environment that places a premium on cooperation and teamwork, this type of intelligence is quite valuable. What is sometimes called emotional intelligence (EQ) is a part of this: the ability to sense others’ feelings and reactions based on their expressions and body language. Managers with high social intelligence are better at motivating employees and assigning them tasks that make the best use of their abilities and personal values. Successful politicians and television personalities often have this type of intelligence, including Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey.

3. Verbal intelligence. This is how well you can express yourself in speaking and writing, to communicate your ideas and convince others. Like social intelligence, verbal intelligence is very helpful in the modern world; many occupations today put a premium on speaking and writing clearly. Good verbal skill leads to higher productivity in the workplace and better social relationships; you don’t have to be a professional writer, journalist, or author to benefit from high verbal intelligence. Famous examples from history include Shakespeare, Lincoln, and William Jennings Bryan.

Related: Want to learn more on the types of intelligence? This infograph claims there are 9 types. 

4. Mathematical-logical intelligence. People with this type of intelligence can think things through to a logical conclusion, can reason abstractly, and solve problems. This type of intelligence includes not only skill with numbers and mathematical concepts, but also skill in analyzing situations and information to reach sound conclusions. Business managers, software developers, and lawyers need particularly high levels of this type of intelligence.

5. Spatial intelligence. This means the ability to mentally process shapes, sizes, and angles, to correctly judge distances and geometrical relationships, and to picture what objects look like if viewed from a different angle. You rely on this type of intelligence when you drive your car through a narrow passageway, build a stone wall, or decide what furniture to put in an empty room. Architects, artists, and pilots typically need high spatial intelligence.

6. Physical intelligence. This means how well you control your body parts to perform a needed motor skill. People with high physical intelligence can learn new activities relatively quickly, such as riding a motorcycle or hitting a tennis ball. All of us use this intelligence daily when we walk, run, or go up and down stairs. Obviously, elite athletes need high physical intelligence in order to master the skills specific to their sports. An example of someone with high physical intelligence is the late actor Patrick Swayze: those close to him say he could quickly pick up most any sport or physical activity.

Although people are born with different levels of each intelligence, each type can be improved with training and practice. By knowing the different types of intelligence, we can work to improve those areas in which we are weakest and perform better on the job and in our personal lives.

Special for USADT.

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