The Theory Of 9 Intelligences: Why “General” Smartness Is Not A Thing

Oct 26, 2023 | Blogs, Career Advice, Career Counselling

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Hand and brainI often hear clients talk about how certain skills or knowledge they hold are not as valued in their families or places of work. What if everyone in the world could recognize their own intelligence and had a place in the world where they could apply this intelligence in valuable ways? Psychologist Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences stands true to this possibility and completely turns the idea of what is considered “smart” on its head.

In fact, the theory of multiple intelligences had such a major influence on society that it changed how school curriculums are designed. He proposed that humans have nine forms of intelligence that can be developed or ignored throughout life. This theory challenged the age-old belief that those who did well in math and science were considered “better than” and that there isn’t a “general” form of intelligence that is measured by cognitive abilities, but rather, we all have strengths and weaknesses that can be honed.

If you had no barriers and no fears, which form of intelligence listed below would you want to use at work? Which would bring you joy and more career satisfaction?

1. Visual-Spatial Intelligence
This reflects one’s ability to envision a 3D world in the mind’s eye. People with this intelligence tend to be creative and are good at recognizing patterns and assembling puzzles.

2. Linguistic-Verbal Intelligence
If you love writing, speaking and languages in general, this is where you live. Using humour with storytelling and explaining things well is also a sign of linguistic intelligence.

3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
If you’re good at quantifying things and making hypotheses based on numbers, congratulations! You may have potential to become (or are) a mathematical genius.

4. Bodily Intelligence
Anyone who is an athlete, loves anatomy or uses physical coordination (ex. trades, physiotherapy, dancer), can really thrive when they express or apply their kinesthetics knowledge.

5. Musical Intelligence
This one is pretty self-explanatory but is specific to those who can discern pitch, tone, and the timbre of sound.

6. Interpersonal Intelligence
This area of intelligence refers to those who have great active listening skills, can easily read other people, and can communicate well (verbally and non-verbally). Resolving conflict and collaboration are also strengths that come with interpersonal intelligence.

7. Intra-personal Intelligence
“Know thyself” would be the motto for this intelligence. This is dedicated to those who have a solid level of self-awareness (you know what you feel and what you want).

8. Naturalistic Intelligence
Anyone with natural intelligence is gifted at identifying living creatures and understanding ecosystems and could learn quickly how to “live off the land”.

9. Existential/Spiritual intelligence
This was the most recently added intelligence by Gardner (his theory used to only include 8 intelligences). Tackling questions around the meaning of life and developing a spiritual practice or an esoteric philosophy on life would be common with those with existential intelligence.

If you want to explore your natural strengths and how your intelligence can be applied in meaningful ways, book a consult with one of our counsellors to engage in self-discovery and find a path that you love.


Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational researcher, 18(8), 4-10.


  • Laura Cohen

    Written by Laura Cohen, a Career Counsellor and Registered Counselling Therapist at Canada Career Counselling – Halifax. Laura is experienced working with clients in numerous industries including finance, the military, business, education, non-profit, arts, IT, and healthcare. She completed her MA in Counselling Psychology at McGill University. If you’d like to connect with Laura, email [email protected] to schedule a 15-minute complimentary consultation. You may be able to use your insurance plan or extended health benefits to cover counselling and assessment fees.