Home Page of Problem Solving Book

Introduction to the Book

Chapter 1: Introduction to Problem Solving

Chapter 2: Overview of Resources in Problem Solving

Chapter 3

A Definition of Intelligence

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences and Computers

Robert Sternberg's Theory of Intelligence

David Perkins' Theory of Intelligence

Final Remarks

Activities and Self-Assessment

Chapter 4: Tools as Resource

Chapter 5: Accumulated Knowledge as Resource

Chapter 6: Education and Training as Resource

Chapter 7: A Computer System

Chapter 8: Personal Productivity Tools

Chapter 9: Computer Programming

Chapter 10: Final Remarks

References and Resources

Search Engine in Lieu of Index

Chapter 3: Intelligence as a Resource

One resource that every person has is their own intelligence. Actually, it is much more accurate to speak of one's intelligences. Each person has varying levels of intelligence in different areas. For example, a person may have a high level of musical intelligence but a relatively low level of logical/mathematical intelligence. Howard Gardner argues that each person has at least seven distinct intelligences.

[[The list has been expanded to eight intelligences. It is interesting to examine Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences in light of recent research in Brain Science. There are a number of schools that have developed their curriculum, instruction, and assessment in a manner consistent with Gardner's theory of MI.]]

Robert Sternberg and David Perkins have both made significant contributions to our understanding of intelligence. Some of their ideas are covered in this chapter.

This chapter gives a definition of intelligence and then explores a variety of intelligences that people have. Many of the key ideas that are covered come from the work of Howard Gardner. After an initial exploration, the intelligences are analyzed from a computer-as-tool point of view.

A Definition of Intelligence

The study and measurement of intelligence have long histories. For example, Alfred Benet and Theodore Simon developed the first Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test in the early 1900s. Chances are, you have taken several IQ tests. Also, the chances are that you are not really sure what IQ is.

It turns out that IQ is a complex concept. Researchers in this field argue with each other. There is no clear agreement as to what constitutes IQ or how to measure it. Three researchers who have written widely sold books about intelligence are Howard Gardner (1983, 1993), Robert Sternberg (1988), and David Perkins (1995). And, of course, there is an extensive and continually growing collection of research papers on the topic.

The following definition is a composite from various authors. It is designed to fit the needs of this book.

Intelligence is a combination of the ability to

  1. learn. This includes all kinds of informal and formal learning via any combination of experience, education, and training.
  2. pose problems. This includes recognizing problem situations and transforming them into more clearly defined problems.
  3. solve problems. This includes solving problems, accomplishing tasks, and fashioning products.

Donald Norman is a cognitive scientist who has written extensively in the area of human-machine interfaces. His book (Norman, 1993) begins with a discussion of how tools (physical and cognitive artifacts) make us smart. In many areas, a person with appropriate training, experience, and tools can far outperform a person who lacks these aids.

The definition of intelligence used in this book is a very optimistic one. It says that each of us can become more intelligent. We can become more intelligent through study and practice, through access to appropriate tools, and through learning to make effective use of these tools (Perkins, 1995).

[[Some people have the impression that IQ is a fixed quantity that one is born with. This is an incorrect point of view. We know, for example, that children who get a very small amount of lead into their blood streams will suffer significant decreases in IQ. Poor nutrition can lower IQ. A high quality formal and informal education can raise IQ. Robert Sternberg in a 1997 article argues that the past few decades have seen a substantial increase in IQ due to radio, television, better education, and so on.]]

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Many people think of intelligence as a number that results from taking an IQ test. But, researchers in the field of intelligence have long realized that people have a variety of different intelligences. A person may be good at learning languages and terrible at learning music--or vice versa. A single number cannot adequately represent the complex and diverse capabilities of a human being.

There is a substantial amount of literature as to what are the most important components of intelligence, how to measure them, and how to foster their development. The latter point may be the most important. According to the definition of intelligence used in this book, intelligence can be fostered--it can be enhanced. Thus, it is important to have a theory of intelligence that identifies components that can be fostered.

Howard Gardner has proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. He has identified seven components of intelligence (Gardner, 1983). He argues that these intelligences are relatively distinct from each other and that each person has some level of each of these seven intelligences. He admits to the possibility that there are more than seven intelligences. However, he has continued to support and believe in his initial list of seven for more than 10 years.

The following table lists seven intelligences identified by Howard Gardner. It provides some examples of the types of people who exhibit a high level of an intelligence. The seven intelligences are listed in alphabetical order.



Dancers, athletes, surgeons, craftspeople

The ability to use one's physical body well.


Sales people, teachers, clinicians, politicians, religious leaders

The ability to sense other's feelings and be in tune with others.


People who have good insight into themselves and make effective use of their other intelligences

Self-awareness. The ability to know your own body and mind.


Poets, writers, orators, communicators

The ability to communicate well, perhaps both orally and in writing, perhaps in several languages.


Mathematicians, logicians

The ability to learn higher mathematics. The ability to handle complex logical arguments.


Musicians, composers

The ability to learn, perform, and compose music.


Sailors navigating without modern navigational aids, surgeons, sculptors, painters

The ability to know where you are relative to fixed locations. The ability to accomplish tasks requiring three-dimensional visualization and placement of your hands or other parts of your body.

Table 3.1 Examples for each of the seven intelligences.
[[Gardner's eighth MI is Naturalistic. Naturalistic intelligence is the ability to understand, relate to, categorize, classify, comprehend, and explain the things encountered in the world of nature. People such as farmers, ranchers, hunters, gardeners, and animal handlers may exhibit developed naturalistic intelligence.]]

Do some introspection. For each of the seven intelligences in the Howard Gardner list, think about your own level of talents and performance. For each intelligence, decide if you have an area of expertise that makes substantial use of the intelligence. For example, perhaps you are good at music. If so, is music the basis of your vocation?

You will probably see that you have a reasonable level of ability to perform in each of the seven areas. Moreover, it is likely you will see that you have various levels of ability to perform in different areas. Finally, you may realize that you have devoted far more time and energy to developing some of your potentials than you have the others.

Multiple Intelligences and Computers

Computers affect each of the components of intelligence in the Howard Gardner list. Table 3.2 shows a brief computer-oriented analysis for each component.


Computer-Related Ideas


Games involving eye-hand coordination and quick reflexes. Keyboarding skills. Rapid, accurate mousing. Carpel-tunnel syndrome.


Teams of people working together, facilitated by groupware software. Networking with people located throughout the world. Role-playing games.


Metacognition during learning to make effective use of computer hardware and software. Understanding of one's other intelligences, learning strengths and weaknesses, transfer of learning strengths and weaknesses with respect to computer-related technology. Role-playing games.


Computer-based tools to aid in composition. New linguistic forms, such as hypermedia. Design as a key part of computer-based communication and desktop publishing. Computer programming languages.


Computer programming. The representation and solution of logical and mathematical problems by means of a computer. Spreadsheets and databases.


Computer as music-writing instrument. Computer as music performer. Sound as an aid to communication in hypermedia applications.


Paint, draw, and computer-assisted design/computer-assisted manufacturing (CAD/CAM) tools. Page-layout software. Dungeons and dragons types of games. Virtual realities.

Table 3.2 How computers affect the seven intelligences.
[[Naturalistic: Information and Communications Technology provide tools that are now routinely used by researchers and practitioners who make use of their naturalistic intelligence.]]

The general idea suggested by Table 3.2 is that the computer is a useful performance-aid tool in each of Howard Gardner's seven areas of intelligence.

Of course, the computer can also be used as an aid to learning. That is, computer systems can be developed to help a person get better at using each of the seven intelligences given in the Howard Gardner list. Computer-assisted learning (computer-assisted instruction) is discussed in Chapter 6.

Robert Sternberg's Theory of Intelligence

As noted earlier in this chapter, different researchers have identified different components of intelligence. Sternberg (1988), for example, focuses on just three main components:

  1. Practical intelligence--the ability to do well in informal and formal educational settings; adapting to and shaping one's environment; street smarts.
  2. Experiential intelligence--the ability to deal with novel situations; the ability to effectively automate ways of dealing with novel situations so they are easily handled in the future; the ability to think in novel ways.
  3. Componential intelligence--the ability to process information effectively. Includes metacognitive, executive, performance, and knowledge-acquisition components that help to steer cognitive processes.

Sternberg provides examples of people who are quite talented in one of these areas but not so talented in the other two. In that sense, his approach to the field of intelligence is somewhat like Howard Gardner's. However, you can see that Sternberg does not focus on specific components of intelligence that are aligned with various academic disciplines.

Sternberg strongly believes that intelligence can be increased by study and practice. Quite a bit of his research focuses on such endeavors.

David Perkins' Theory of Intelligence

Perkins (1995) examines a large number of research studies both on the measurement of IQ and of programs of study designed to increase IQ. He presents detailed arguments that IQ has three major components or dimensions.

  1. Neural intelligence. This refers to the efficiency and precision of one's neurological system.
  2. Experiential intelligence. This refers to one's accumulated knowledge and experience in different areas. It can be thought of as the accumulation of all of one's expertises.
  3. Reflective intelligence. This refers to one's broad-based strategies for attacking problems, for learning, and for approaching intellectually challenging tasks. It includes attitudes that support persistence, systemization, and imagination. It includes self-monitoring and self-management.

There is substantial evidence to support the belief that a child's neural intelligence can be adversely affected by the mother's use of drugs such as alcohol and cocaine during pregnancy. Lead (such as from lead-based paint) can do severe neural damage to a person. Vitamins, or the lack thereof, can affect neural intelligence.

Moreover, there is general agreement that neural intelligence has a "use it or lose it" characteristic. It is clear that neural intelligence can be maintained and, indeed, increased, by use.

Experiential intelligence is based on years and years of accumulating knowledge and experience in both informal and formal learning environments. Such knowledge and experience can lead to a high level of expertise in one or more fields. People who live in "rich" learning environments have a significant intelligence advantage over people who grow up in less stimulating environments. Experiential intelligence can be increased by such environments.

Reflexive intelligence can be thought of as a control system that helps to make effective use of neural intelligence and experiential intelligence. A person can learn strategies that help to make more effective use of neural intelligence and experiential intelligence. The habits of mind included under reflexive intelligence can be learned and improved.

Previous chapters in this book have included an emphasis on metacognition and on reflexivity. Many of the journaling activities have focused on reflecting over learning, education, problem solving across different disciplines, and so on. All of these types of activities are important to increasing reflexive intelligence.

[[Research in Brain Science in the past few years strongly supports the "use it or lose it" theory. The parallel with muscle strength and stamina is interesting.]]

Final Remarks

This chapter lists a number of possible components of intelligence. Some of the ways of dividing up intelligence may seem more intuitively correct to you than others. It seems clear that even the experts do not agree with each other. An analysis of seven different theories of intelligence is given in Chapter 12 of Perkins (1995).

There has been a great deal of research about intelligence. The works of Gardner, Perkins, and Sternberg provide summaries of varied approaches to understanding intelligence. Shekerjian (1990) contains a number of case studies of people who have displayed high levels of intelligence. The literature provides substantial evidence that through study and practice, people can make appreciable gains in their ability to solve problems and accomplish tasks that require a high level of intellect.

Each of us is free to look at intelligence from our own point of view. You may want to argue that certain intelligences should be removed from the Howard Gardner list or that there are other candidates that should be added. You may like the Sternberg list better than the Gardner list. You may want to create your own list. You may agree with David Perkins that intelligence can be increased, or you may find that his arguments are not convincing to you.

Actually, the details given in the various definitions and analyses of components of intelligence may not be particularly important to you. Perhaps what is more important is that the various definitions can help as you work to understand your relative strengths and weaknesses. You can come to understand yourself better.

Also, these definitions can provide a basis for examining how computers may enhance your overall ability to solve problems. There is no doubt that through study, practice, and learning to make use of tools such as computers, you can get better at problem solving.

Activities and Self-Assessment

  1. Analyze your personal strengths and weaknesses from the point of view of the seven intelligences identified by Howard Gardner. For each of these seven intelligences, analyze what you believe to be your "native" levels of intelligence and also your "developed" levels of intelligence.
  2. Select a job situation, perhaps your current job or a career that you are planning. Analyze it from the point of view of which of Gardner's seven intelligences seems most important. Then select a second job situation or possible career that is substantially different from the first and repeat the analysis.
  3. Do activities 1 and 2 from the point of view of the three components of intelligence proposed by Robert Sternberg. From your point of view, which of the two approaches (Gardner or Sternberg) seems to be most useful to you? Then repeat this activity for Perkins' three components of intelligence.
  4. Add one or more types of intelligence to Howard Gardner's list of intelligences, to Robert Sternberg's list of components of intelligence, or to David Perkins' list of components of intelligence. Give arguments that support your additions. Analyze yourself from the point of view of the intelligences that you add to the list.
  5. The definition of intelligence used in this chapter is different from a definition that says intelligence is something that you are born with--that your level of intelligence is fixed at birth. Discuss "nature versus nurture plus tools" issues in intelligence.
  6. Select two or three intelligences from the Howard Gardner list that are most helpful in doing well in our current K&endash;12 school system. Are these also the ones that are most helpful in doing well on the job or in other non-school settings?
    1. [[Over the years, a variety of researchers have attached the problem of developing computer programs that can do well on IQ tests. They have experienced varying levels of success. A related, but different issue is whether one can develop a computer system that can carry on an "intelligent" conversation with people. Alan Turing posed this question in 1951, and it is now known as the Turing test. What are your personal thoughts and insights into the development of intelligent machines?]]

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