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Howard Gardner: biography of the American psychologist

Howard Gardner: biography of the American psychologist

May 9, 2021

Howard Gardner (United States, 1943) is an American psychologist and educator who has devoted a large part of his life to research. Gardner is popularly known for his Theory of multiple intelligences .

As a theoretician, he thought that the vision of intelligence that existed until then (at the time he proposed his theory) did not explain human intelligence in its entirety, and the measurement of the Intellectual Quotient (CI) did not take into account the different intelligences that a person can own and develop.

His main work, "Structures of the mind: the theory of multiple intelligences (1983)", explains its theoretical approach and its eight types of intelligence . His conception of this construct has had a great impact not only in the field of psychology, but also in the educational field, where he has inspired thousands of teachers and educators who explore new ways of teaching thanks to these different intelligences. In the words of Gardner himself: "Every human being has a unique combination of intelligence. This is the fundamental educational challenge".


  • Learn more about Howard Gardner's theory in the article by psychologist and writer Bertrand Regader: "Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences"

Biography of Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner was born in 1943 in Scranton, Pennsylvania (United States). He is the son of a Jewish family that settled in the United States fleeing Nazi Germany, and since young was always an enthusiast of reading and piano. As a student he stood out for his brilliance, and was accepted at the prestigious Harvard University where he became interested in the psychology of development due to the influence of Erik Erikson and Jerome Bruner.

After obtaining a doctorate in psychology from Harvard University and completing his postdoctoral research in the field of neuropsychology, Gardner contributed greatly to the field of education and psychology . As has already been said, Gardner, in the 80s, proposed and developed the theory of multiple intelligences based on his empirical work.


Teaching and projects

In addition, he has continued his professional career as a teacher, which has led him to be part of the same university institution where he studied. Nowadays, Howard Gardner is professor of cognition and education John H . & Elisabeth A. Hobbs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director of the Harvard Project Zero, a research group created in 1967 by the Harvard School of Education, whose object of study is the learning processes of children and adults.

In addition, from the 90s, in collaboration with William Damon and the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (the latter well known for being the author of the concept of flow status) founded The Good Project. Gardner, to this day, continues to direct this foundation, which coordinates with a group of professionals who promote excellence and ethics in education, dealing with different issues: civic participation, organizational collaboration or the correct use of digital media, among others. .


Thanks to his work he has received different prizes or awards, especially for his theory of multiple intelligences. He is Doctor Honoris Causa by several universities, among which those of Tel Aviv, Princeton or Mc Gill stand out. He has been awarded by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and, in addition, he has received more than 20 honorary titles. In 2011, he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Social Sciences.

His great work: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

After spending time working with different groups of individuals (children with and without disabilities and adults with brain damage), Gardner began to develop a theory that synthesizes his research and observations.

Your theory is a counterweight to the paradigm of a unique intelligence , because, after his investigations and experiences, he came to the conclusion that human life requires the development of several types of intelligence, not a unitary intelligence. Therefore, contrary to traditional intelligence theories that focus on a single intelligence or general intelligence, he proposed that people have different ways of learning and thinking, and identified and described eight types of intelligence.

  • You can click on the title of each intelligence to access more detailed information.

1. Linguistic intelligence

It is the ability to master language and communication . It not only includes oral language, but also writing or gestures

2. Logical-mathematical intelligence

It is the ability to reason in a deductive and logical way and the ability to solve mathematical problems. It is usually associated with scientists and the speed to solve mathematical problems.It is the indicator that determines how much logical-mathematical intelligence is possessed.

3. Space intelligence

Also known as visual-spatial intelligence, it is the ability to observe the world and objects from different perspectives , as well as the ability to manipulate or create mental images to solve problems. This ability is not limited to vision, since spatial intelligence also develops in blind people. The spatial intelligence stands out in the chess players and the professionals of the visual arts (painters, designers, sculptors ...).

4. Musical intelligence

For Gardner there is a musical intelligence in all people, characterized by the ability to recognize and compose musical tones and rhythms . There are people more advantaged in this type of intelligence, who are able to play instruments and read or compose musical pieces with ease

5. Body and kinesthetic intelligence

It is the ability to use the ability to coordinate body movements . This type of intelligence is a manifestation of the connection between the mind (and emotions) and movement. Stand out in body intelligence: dancers, actors or athletes.

6. Intrapersonal intelligence

This type of intelligence is characterized by the ability to understand and control the internal sphere of oneself. The people who dominate intrapersonal intelligence are able to access feelings and emotions and reflect on them. Generally, this type of individuals enjoy greater emotional and psychological well-being.

7. Interpersonal intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence refers to the ability to discern the emotions and intentions of others. In other words, it allows interpreting the words or gestures, or the goals and goals of other people. Currently, it is considered a very important part of emotional intelligence.

8. Naturalist intelligence

This type of intelligence is the ability to distinguish, order, classify, understand and use elements of the environment , objects, animals or plants. Therefore, this type of intelligence refers to the capacity for observation, experimentation, reflection and questioning of the physical environment. Biologists, botanists or hunters usually have a high naturist intelligence.

Bases of multiple Intelligences

Gardner argues that there are both biological and cultural bases in multiple intelligences . Neurobiological investigations indicate that learning is the result of modifications in synaptic connections between neurons. The primary elements of the different intelligences are found in the brain regions where these transformations take place.

On the other hand, Gardner explains that culture also plays an important role in the development of these intelligences and different cultures value different intelligences differently. So that, the cultural value to execute the tasks related to these intelligences serves as motivation to develop them .

Bibliographic references:

  • Gardner, H. (2006). Schaler, Jeffrey A., ed. "A Blessing of Influences" in Howard Gardner Under Fire. Illinois: Open Court.
  • Gardner, H. (1989). To Open Minds: Chinese Clues to the Dilemma of American Education. New York: Basic Books.

Entrevista Howard Gardner - La Ciudad de las Ideas (May 2021).


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