Critiques by Those who Question Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory Home

To be able to recognize your critics, in particular those who critique your philosophy and what you stand up for is, I believe, a good thing.  Thus, this web page.  To be knowledgeable about those who criticize your stance on human intelligences, especially those who critique the notion that all of us possess various 'kinds of minds' is an even better thing.  Could this be THE reason why I have spent energy, interest, and time developing this informal, personable, and down-to-earth page, a web setting that seems to be continuously under construction?  I do not know.  Has all of what immediately follows been worth it?  Again, I don't know.  I shall let you, the reader, answer those questions. 

In the interim, I trust that the contents of the following list of intelligence theorists may, in some way, quench your curiosity.

Akpunar, Bürhan & Dogan, Yunu

Akpunar, Bürhan & Dogan, Yunus  (2011, June).  Deciphering the theory of multiple intelligences: An Islamic perspective  [Special Issue].  International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(11),  224-231.

Abstract:  This paper aims to criticize the theory of Multiple Intelligences which was incorporated into Turkish educational system together with the educational reform made in 2004 from an Islamic perspective.  To this end, analyses on the relevant literature have been carried out.  As a result, it has been identified that this theory, with its initial form, has also been widely accepted in many Muslim countries.  However, it is expectable that this acceptance will soon turn into a refusal due to Gardner’s placing strong emphasis on materialism and Darwin as the reference sources for his own theory.  For, materialism and Darwinism are completely dissimilar to the core values of Islam.  Moreover, Gardner’s theory conflicts with Islam in that it cannot present a consistent goal in education and cannot keep a balance between the material and the spiritual, and it can bear such risks as nihilism and hedonism. 


Armstrong, Thomas 

Armstrong, Thomas  (2009).  Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 3rd Edition

Chapter 15. MI Theory and Its Critics  Here is Armstrong's opening paragraph

"Along with the expanding popularity of multiple intelligences, there has been a growing body of writing critical of the theory.  In fact, one of the criticisms lodged against MI theory is that there has not been enough acknowledgment of the critical literature on the part of MI advocates.  Willingham (2004), for example, observes: "Textbooks [on MI theory] for teachers in training generally offer extensive coverage of the theory, with little or no criticism" (p. 24).  Traub (1998) writes: "Few of the teachers and administrators I talked to were familiar with the critiques of multiple intelligence theory; what they knew was that the theory worked for them.  They talked about it almost euphorically" (p. 22).  In this chapter, I'd like to review some of the major criticisms of MI, and attempt to clear up what I believe are some key misconceptions about the theory. 

To read what these criticisms are and how Armstrong feels that they have been misconstrued, click here

Bouchard, Thomas, J. Jr.

Bouchard, Thomas, J. Jr.  (1984, July 20).  Review of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences.  American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 54, 506-508.

Brody, Nathan

Brody, Nathan  (1992).  Intelligence.  2nd ed. New York: Academic Press. 

In his evaluation of what he simply terms a taxonomy, Brody argues, at some length, that HEG's "list of intelligences is arbitrary, and that his attempt to restructure the theory of intelligence to omit a general factor is no more successful than the attempts of psychometric theorists to dispense with g" (p. 36).  Brody fails to see how HEG's eight (8) criteria leads to the set of intelligences that he posits. Moreover, Brody has problems with HEG's evidence of the independence of intelligences resulting from HEG's study of 'rare' cases of prodigies and savants, to name just two.  And Brody feels that "the independent functioning of intelligences following brain damage may be of little relevance to understand the performance of intact individuals" (p. 29).

Here, the reader sees two (2) well-respected human intelligence theorists (Robert Sternberg and Nathan Brody) finding HEG's taxonomy to be without empirical foundation, and thus subject to extreme judgment.  HEG (1993) has been the first to admit that his "intelligences are fictions -- at most, useful fictions -- for identifying processes and abilities that (like all of life) are continuous with one another" (see p. 70).  In defense of Howard Earle, I must point out that the field of developmental cognitive science (DCS) is a new, young, and growing field and that all evidence should thus be taken as tentative rather than definite.  In DCS, researchers continue to hypothesize about the existence of 100 distinct areas in the cerebral cortex, still trying to shade them, to ascertain their identities, and to see how they connect with each another.

Carroll, John, B.

Carroll, John, B.  (1993).  Human cognitive abilities: A survey of factor-analytic studies. New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Here, Carroll finds it interesting "that the kinds of 'intelligences' described by [HEG] show a fairly close correspondence with the broad domains of ability" as suggested by Raymond Cattell and John Horn.  For example, Carroll believes that HEG's linguistic intelligence corresponds closely to the concepts of Cattell and Horn's crystallized intelligence.  Carroll also views HEG's logical-mathematical and visual-spatial intelligence suspiciously similar to the concept of fluid intelligence and visual perception, respectively (p. 641; for a similar critique, see Bouchard 1984, p. 507).

Carson, Andrew

Carson, Andrew  (2008, March 16).  Why has [HEG's] [MIT] had so little impact on vocational psychology?  This article takes a different focus, namely HEG's potential for use in career choices and decisions, but its conclusions for the most part apply equally as well in education.

"I would suggest there are a number of reasons for why vocational psychologists have largely ignored [HEG's] work, in general, and his [MIT], in particular.  First, he has ignored almost all research and theory contributed by vocational psychologists. ... Second, despite all the books, there have as yet been relatively few serious, empirical, theory-testing publications of [MIT]. ... Third, he tends to make broad claims about how his [MIT] makes sense and seems to imply that competing theories ... theories of g, in particular, are lacking in substance; this is despite decades of empirical research supporting the latter.  Fourth, he almost never collaborates or interacts with other vocational psychologists ... Fifth, he seems romantically inclined rather than philosophically inclined, ... meaning that he identifies in his topics what in them he finds emotionally engaging, and focuses on extreme limit cases (e.g., his biographies of great achievers), rather than to promote dry, logical, traditional, and testable theories."

Ceci, Steven

Steven Ceci, a developmental psychologist at Cornell, praises HEG as "a wonderful communicator" who has publicized "a much more egalitarian view of intelligence." But he points out that HEG's approach of constructing criteria and then running candidate intelligences through them, while suggestive, provides no hard evidence -- no test results, for example -- that his colleagues could evaluate.  Ceci adds: "The neurological data show that the brain is modular but that does not address the issue of whether all these things are correlated or not." Track-and-field athletes, he notes, may have special gifts in one particular event, but they will score better than the average person on every event.  Psychological tests show the same kind of correlation (see p. 20)."

Darius, Julian

Against Gardner  (2008, September 20).  Originally published online on 18 February 2003  An opinion critiquing HEG's MIT.  Here are two (2) quotes from his greater section.

"But the most damaging element of [HEG's] taxonomies is not his particular choices -- which should not be taken all so seriously, though they often are -- but the labelling of all such elements as “intelligences.” Previous eras and generations did not ignore the awe-inspiring abilities of athletes and musicians and interpersonal schmoozers, but they called such things “abilities” or “aptitudes” instead of “intelligences.”

"[HEG's] popular theory has made him, in his effects if not his intentions, a traitor not only to the academy but some two and a half millennia of learning. Such is the power of a single word, calamitous in its misuse."


Fodor, Jerry

1983  The modularity of mind: An essay on faculty psychology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT / Bradford Press
1985  Précis of the modularity of mind. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, March, 8(1), 1-42.

In both of these writings, Fodor claims that HEG rejects a central processor form of intelligence that cuts across his eight (8) separate modules.  In its stead, Fodor defends the now standard consensus of brain localization, the modularity of mind, a premise holding that the different forms of human intelligence occupy separate areas of the brain.

Gardner, Howard

Gardner, H.  (1994).  Multiple intelligences theory.  In R. J. Sternberg  (Ed.),  Encyclopedia of human intelligence  (Vol. 2,  pp. 740-742).  New York: Macmillan.  Here, we read HEG being critical of his own theory, in particular, his clarifications that his MIT does not incorporate specifying underlying executive processes.

Gilman, Lynn  (2001).  Criticism of MI Theory

Here are 2 excerpts from her article:

"When reviewing criticism of Multiple Intelligences theory, addressing the historically ever-present question of whether intelligence is one thing or many things is unavoidable. The fundamental criticism of MI theory is the belief by scholars that each of the seven multiple intelligences is in fact a cognitive style rather than a stand-alone construct (Morgan, 1996).  Morgan, (1996) refers to Gardner's approach of describing the nature of each intelligence with terms such as abilities, sensitivities, skills and abilities as evidence of the fact that the "theory" is really a matter of semantics rather than new thinking on multiple constructs of intelligence and resembles earlier work by factor theorists of intelligence like L. L. Thurstone who argued that a single factor (g) cannot explain the complexity of human intellectual activity.  According to Morgan (1996), identifying these various abilities and developing a theory that supports the many factors of intelligence has been a significant contribution to the field.  Furthermore, he believes that MI theory has proven beneficial to schools and teachers and it may help explain why students do not perform well on standardized tests but it in Morgan's opinion it does not warrant the complete rejection of g."

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"Other criticisms include the notion that MI theory is not empirical, is incompatible with g, heritability, and environmental influences, and broadens the construct of intelligence so widely as to render it meaningless. Gardner (1995) staunchly defends the empiricism of the theory by referring to the numerous laboratory and field data that contributed to its development and the ongoing re-conceptualization of the theory based on new scientific data. Regarding the claim that Multiple Intelligences theory cannot accommodate g, Gardner argues that g has a scientific place in intelligence theory but that he is interested in understanding intellectual processes that are not explained by g.  In response to the criticism that MI theory is incompatible with genetic or environmental accounts of the nature of intelligence, Gardner states that his theory is most concerned with the interaction between genetics and the environment in understanding intelligence.  Finally, the notion that MI theory has expanded the definition of intelligence beyond utility produces a strong reaction from Gardner.  He argues passionately that the narrow definition of intelligence as equal to scholastic performance is simply too constrictive.  In his view, MI theory is about the intellectual and cognitive aspects of the human mind.  Gardner is careful to point out that MI theory is not a theory of personality, morality, motivation, or any other psychological construct (1995, 1999a, 1999b)." 

To read all of Gilman's criticisms, go to and scroll down.


Gardner, H.  (1999a).  Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century.  New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H.  (1999b, February).  Who owns intelligence?  Atlantic Monthly, 67-76.
Gardner, H.  (1995).  Reflections on multiple intelligences.  Phi Delta Kappan, 77(3), 200-208.
Morgan, H.  (1996).  An analysis of Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence.  Roeper Review 18, 263-270.

Guskin, S. L. Peng, C. J., & Simon, M.

Guskin, S. L., Peng, C. J., & Simon, M.  (1992, Winter).  Do teachers react to "multiple intelligences"?  Effects of teachers' stereotypes on judgments and expectancies for students with diverse patterns of giftedness/talent.  Gifted Child Quarterly, 36(1), 32-37.

Jensen, Arthur Robert

Jensen, Arthur R.  (2008, January -- February).  [Review of Jeffrey A. Schaler's 2006 edited book Howard gardner under fire: The rebel psychologist faces his critics].  Intelligence, 36(1), 96-97.  Plus, go here to see a pdf file, showing the book's front and back covers, its table of contents, the names of all of the contributors, including an enlightening introduction by the author.

Arthur Robert Jensen is known for his work in psychometrics and differential psychology, fields which are concerned with how and why individuals differ behaviourally from one another.  He is a key supporter of the hereditarian stance in the ongoing nature-versus-nurture deliberation, his thinking being that genetics play a significant role in behavioural characteristics, such as intelligence and personality.  

His emergence as an important figure in the history of human intelligence theory occurred, in the opinions of many, in February of 1969, with the publication of his controversial 123-paged essay in the Harvard Educational Review journal (33, 1-123).  In How much can we boost I. Q. and scholastic achievement?, Jensen, in so many words, responded with a unchangeable reply: Not Very Much.  Throughout that lengthy article, he presented, amongst other viewpoints, evidence that racial differences in intelligence test scores may have a genetic origin.

Accordingly, and as one ought to expect, Arthur Robert does not have many complimentary remarks regarding Howard Earl's above 428-paged 2006 book, nor of HEG's supposed "critique" by others.  That is, Jensen feels that the authors of the books' essays who criticized HEG's MIT were largely self-selected "like-minded" folks.  The significant criticism that Jensen (and most other intelligence scholars from a more empirical / psychometric tradition) have for HEG's work is captured in the following three (3) excerpts, lifted directly from Jensen's review:

"... The present volume, on Gardner, includes the following sections: (1) vitae of the seventeen authors from various fields who offered critiques of Gardner's works, (2) Schaler's authoritative Introduction to Gardner's works, (3) Gardner's quite intimate intellectual autobiography, (4) thirteen critiques of Gardner's work, (5) Gardner's generally detailed replies to each of the thirteen critiques of his contributions, and (6) Gardner's complete bibliography between the years 1965 and 2006, totalling about 1000 publications." (p. 96)

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"Probably many educationists with little interest in acquiring a clear understanding of scientific psychology and psychometrics have uncritically embraced Gardner's psychology out of desperation. The persistent frustration of the educational system's dealing realistically with the wide range of scholastic aptitude in the nation's schools creates a fertile ground for seemingly attractive educational nostrums. Gardner's invention of the term “multiple intelligences” capitalizes on the high valuation the public accords to the word “intelligence.” The appeal of Gardner's terminology has been parodied as the Marie Antoinette theory of schooling: if the people have no bread, let them eat cake. If some pupils have inordinate difficulty learning the 3 Rs, let them spend more time exercising those other skills constituting the several distinctive “intelligences”: music, art, dance, athletics, empathic understanding of other persons, or insightful understanding of oneself, and possibly a few other still debatable abilities that might intuitively qualify as “intelligences” in Gardner's system, such as naturalist intelligence and spiritual intelligence." (pp. 96-97)

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"Overall, Gardner's treatment of g would impress only those readers with little or no accurate knowledge of g theory. In any case, it is a mistaken notion that g theory must be overthrown for the practical success of Gardner's multiple abilities theory to prove its worth in education, if in fact that worth can be empirically demonstrated. Also, Gardner's view that g theory should be abandoned simply because it has been around for a long time is untenable. Today, 400 years after Newton formulated the universal law of gravitation, theoretical physicists are still seeking the final explanation of gravity. And today, 100 years after Spearman discovered psychometric g, psychologists and neuroscientists are seeking a final explanation of g." (p. 97)

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Klein, Perry

Klein, Perry  (1997, Autumn).  Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight: A critique of Gardner's theory.  Canadian Journal of Education, 22(4), 377-394.


Howard Gardner has theorized that the mind comprises eight intelligences. Multiple intelligence theory has inspired educational innovations across North America, but has received little critical analysis.  I contend that Gardner is on the horns of a dilemma.  A "weak" version of multiple intelligence theory would be uninteresting, whereas a "strong" version is not adequately supported by the evidence Gardner presents.  Pedagogically, multiple intelligence theory has inspired diverse practices, including balanced programming, matching instruction to learning styles, and student specialization.  However, the theory shares the limitations of general intelligence theory: it is too broad to be useful for planning curriculum, and as a theory of ability, it presents a static view of student competence.  Research on the knowledge and strategies that learners use in specific activities, and on how they construct this knowledge, may prove more relevant to classroom practice.

See also < Gardner, Howard.  (1998).  A Reply to Perry D. Klein's "Multiplying the problems of intelligence by eight".  Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 96-102. >

Plus < Klein, Perry, D.  (1998).  A response to Howard Gardner: Falsifibality, empirical evidence, and pedagogical usefulness in educational psychology.  Canadian Journal of Education, 23(1), 103-112.

Matthews, Donna

Matthews, Donna  (1988, December).  Gardner's multiple intelligence theory: An evaluation of relevant research literature and a consideration of its application to gifted education.  Roeper Review, 11(2), 100-104.  Here, Matthews comments that while Gardner's MI model is practical and theoretically appealing, this quality alone cannot validate his MI theory.

McGuinness, Keith

@ comments on Howard Gardner's ideas. Here is part of what he said:

" ... Gardner himself had a specific reason for calling the qualities he identified "intelligences".  He wrote: "In delineating a narrow definition of intelligence, however, one usually devalues those capacities that are not within that definition's purview: thus, dancers or chess players may be talented but they are not smart."

"There are three points I would like to make about this statement.  First, Gardner's conclusion is, obviously, incorrect: dancers and chess players can be talented AND smart.  Second, in our society, talents seem to be valued (or at least applauded) more readily than intelligence.  Third, as most people know, redefining a word to have a meaning at odds with current usage is a common practice in political or social debate: it is, in my experience, rarely done to enlighten, usually to confuse (e g killing civilians becomes "collateral damage")."

Miller, George

George Miller, the esteemed psychologist credited with discovering the mechanisms by which short-term memory operates, wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Gardner's argument boiled down to "hunch and opinion" (see p. 20).  And Gardner's subsequent work has done very little to shift the balance of opinion.

Morgan, Harry

(1992).  An analysis of Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence.  Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of The Eastern Educational Research Association.  (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 360 088).

Here, Morgan contended that Gardner's index of intelligences bore striking resemblance to cognitive style constructs and intelligence quotient factors identified by others in unified theories of intelligence.  Morgan stated that MI theory merely adapted factors identified as primary abilities in factor analyses of data derived from intelligence tests and re-labelled them as intelligences.  Morgan reviewed the literature on cognitive styles.  His findings suggested numerous similarities between MI framework and styles of cognition.  For example, Morgan interpreted Gardner's logical-mathematical intelligence as being applied to those who are simply sensitive to logical or numerical patterns and thus have the ability to handle long chains of reasoning and whose ideal careers are scientists or mathematicians.  That is, Morgan saw Gardner's characteristics as compatible with the cognitive styles identified as field independent and also with numerical ability, one of the factors identified by intelligence factor analysis.  To sum, Morgan agreed that single factor constructs of intelligence have certainly been invalidated by current research; however, he failed to see how the label of separate intelligences for aspects of cognition could be warranted.


The theory of multiple intelligence (MI) propounded by Gardner and Hatch suggests that human beings have seven distinct units of intellectual functioning, and that these units are actually separate intelligences with their own observable and measurable abilities.  These intelligences were identified as logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.  These units, however, bear striking resemblance to cognitive style constructs and intelligence quotient factors identified by others in unified theories of intelligence.  In fact, MI theory merely adapts factors identified as primary abilities in factor analyses of data derived from intelligence tests and relabels them as intelligences.  A review of the literature on cognitive styles shows numerous compatibilities between styles of cognition and the MI intelligences.  For example, the logical-mathematical intelligence is applied to individuals who are sensitive to logical or numerical patterns and have the ability to handle long chains of reasoning, and whose ideal career is as scientists or mathematicians.  These characteristics are compatible with the cognitive style identified as field-independent, and also with numerical ability, one of the factors identified by intelligence factor analysis.  While single factor constructs of intelligence have certainly been invalidated by current research, the label of separate intelligences for aspects of cognition does not appear to be warranted.  Critiques of each of the seven MI intelligences and 97 references are included. (BCY). 


For a comparable viewpoint, see "Morgan, Harry  (1996).  An analysis of Gardner's theory of multiple intelligence. Roeper Review 18, 263-270."

Peterson, K. S.

(1997).  Do new definitions of smart dilute meaning?  USA Today, pp. D1-D2.

Richardson, Ken

(1991).  Understanding Intelligence.  Philadelphia: Open University Press. 

Gardner's inattentiveness to the scientific method has also been contested.  Here, Richardson feels that the MI 'theory' seems to be "more a pragmatic framework for accentuating the individual strengths that children currently have, and as a rationale for providing programs of activity within the different intellectual domains" (p. 145). And during a review of Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Action, Francine Smolucha (1993) commented that Gardner has simply coined a new term "subjective" factor analysis as his excuse for lack of statistical data supporting his "theory" (p. 368; and for a similar critique, see Kline, 1991, p. 137).

Scarr, Sandra

(1985).  An author's frame of mind [Review of Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences] New Ideas in Psychology, 3(1), 95-100.  Here, Scarr severely critiques Gardner for confusing talents and abilities with intelligence.

Schuler, Glenn

A Critique of Gardner's Text - Frames of Mind  Here are two (2) excerpts from his comments.

"In researching multiple intelligence, I came across dozens of articles, book chapters, and similar text associated with Gardner's concepts of multiple intelligence (MI). The basic concepts of MI theory is confined within Frames of Mind (1983). According to many researchers such as H. Morgan, Professor of Early Childhood at West Georgia College, the theory that multiple factors contribute to what is generally considered intelligence is not new ... . As early as the 18th century Christian Wolff wrote of a facultas appetiva and a facultas cognoseitiva - a faculty for willing and a faculty for knowing."

Later, German philosophers added a third faculty for feeling. In 1939, Louis Thurstone of the University of Chicago had published evidence for seven independent mental abilities - verbal comprehension, word fluency, numerical fluency, spatial visualization, associative memory, speed of perception and reason (Miller, 1983). C. P. Snow's observation that intellectual life had become organized into two mutually uncomprehending groups, with literary intellectuals at one pole and physical scientists at the other, likewise caused a stir in 1959. Some intellectuals saw this as evidence of our failing educational system (Miller, 1983). Gardner responded to this limited scope of intellectual range by stating, "I think it has to do with the circumstances under which the intelligence test was developed. It was developed to predict who would have trouble in school. So it's basically a scholastic kind of measure, and the more you try to apply intelligence tests results to milieus like schools - which can include certain kinds of professional or business organizations-the more appropriate the IQ test is, and the more appropriate that standard definition is. But, once you move to outside of school-like settings, then the standard theory of intelligence is much less appropriate" (Koch, 1996).

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"In analyzing Gardner's seven distinct intelligences beginning with logical-mathematical intelligence, one discovers an interesting parallel to two other cognitive styles. In the 1940s, Briggs and Meyers started developing self-report questions that would lead to assessments of individual personality types and their cognitive styles. They expanded cognitive style theory to include typological constructs from their personality theory. This concept has been referred to as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Myers and McCauley, 1985). As mentioned earlier, Gardner categorized logical-mathematical intelligence as the capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns and handle long chains of reasoning (Gardner & Hatch, 1989). The MBTI also identified these characteristics as cognitive learning styles employed by various personality types (Morgan, 1996, p. 266). Another learning style, The Field Independent types, approach object relations in an analytical manner with the ability to discern objects as discrete from their context. Interestingly, Gardner's Logical-Mathematical Intelligence employs practically the same description." 


Seebach, Linda

2004.05.21  Scooping out multiple intelligences  Scripps Howard News Service @

Sempsey, James

October 19, 1993.  The Pedagogical Implications Of Cognitive Science and Howard Gardner's M. I. Theory (A Critique).  This paper briefly assesses some of the pedagogical implications of Gardner's work.  Simply stated for here, Sempsey insists that Gardner’s theory is too broad and can be abused.  To cite Sempsey directly:

"Since our national culture is supposed to become increasingly multi-cultural, could not any individual pick and chose between various sub-culturally valued competencies and then proclaim their own unique set of abilities as equally legitimate to any other set?,”  And “To define intelligence in terms of culturally relative values is to deny the intrinsic value (or even existence) of higher orders of organization. If intelligence can only be subjectively valued, then ultimately intelligence has no true value and perhaps never existed to begin with."

Shafer, Barbara

Shafer cites the following five (5) reasons why parents often have apprehension over the implementation of HEG's MIT in public schools.

  1. Some parents view HEG's MIT as being a further "dumbing down" of academic achievement.
  2. MIT fails to allow parents to know how their child is doing in school.
  3. Multiple Intelligences are often the excuse used for abandoning letter grades and adopting "Performance Based Assessments" that further muddy the waters in academic accountability.
  4. MIT is the reason behind more posters, songs, dances, videos, and dioramas as classwork (often as group work) in lieu of written papers, book reports, and oral presentations. 
  5. MIT requires more work on the part of parents.

Smerechansky-Metzger, Jean, A.  (1995, May-June).  The quest for multiple intelligences.  Gifted Child Today, 18(3), 12-15. 

For the MI model to be successful and validated, educators, especially classroom teachers, must "begin to open their minds to the possibilities surrounding the [MI] concept" (Smerechansky-Metzger, 1995, p. 14)

Smith, Mark K. 

Smith, Mark K.  (2002, 2008).  Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences.  [Online exclusive].  The encyclopaedia of informal education.  Retrieved November 12, 2007 from  Here is an excerpt from Smith's article:

"Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences - some issues and problems 

There are various criticisms of, and problems around, Howard Gardner's conceptualization of multiple intelligences.  Indeed, Gardner himself has listed some of the main issues and his responses. ... Here, I want to focus on three key questions that have been raised in debates. ...

Are the criteria Howard Gardner employs adequate?  John White (1997) has argued that there are significant issues around the criteria that Howard Gardner employs.  There are questions around the individual criteria, for example, do all intelligences involve symbol systems; how the criteria to be applied; and why these particular criteria are relevant.  In respect of the last, and fundamental question, White states that he has not been able to find any answer in Gardner's writings ... . Indeed, Howard Gardner himself has admitted that there is an element of subjective judgement involved.

Does Howard Gardner's conceptualization of intelligence hold together?  For those researchers and scholars who have traditionally viewed intelligence as, effectively, what is measured by intelligence tests - Howard Gardner's work will always be problematic.  They can still point to a substantial tradition of research that demonstrates correlation between different abilities and argue for the existence of a general intelligence factor.  Howard Gardner ... disputes much of the evidence and argues that it is not possible, as yet, to know how far intelligences actually correlate.  More recent developments in thinking around intelligence such as Robert Sternberg ... advancement of a 'triarchic model' have shared Gardner's dislike of such standard intelligence theory.  However, in contrast to Howard Gardner, Robert Sternberg does not look strongly at the particular material that the person is processing.  Instead, he looks to what he calls the componential, experiential and contextual facets of intelligence.   A further set of criticisms centre around the specific intelligences that Howard Gardner identified.  For example, it can be argued that musical intelligence and bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence are better approached as talents (they do not normally need to adapt to life demands).

Is there sufficient empirical evidence to support Howard Gardner's conceptualization?  A common criticism made of Howard Gardner's work is that his theories derive rather more strongly from his own intuitions and reasoning than from a comprehensive and full grounding in empirical research.  For the moment, there is not a properly worked-through set of tests to identify and measure the different intelligences.

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Howard Gardner himself has not pursued this approach because of a more general worry with such testing - that it leads to labelling and stigmatization.  It can be argued that research around the functioning of the brain generally continues to support the notion of multiple intelligence (although not necessarily the specifics of Howard Gardner's theory)." 

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Smolucha, F.  (1993, October).  [Review of Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice].  Choice, 31(2), 368.

Sternberg, Robert Jeffrey  (1983, Winter).  How much Gall is too much gall?  [Review of Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences]. Contemporary Education Review, 2(3), 215-224. 

Here, Sternberg is unclear as to "exactly what each intelligence consists of, because HEG's theory, like other map-based theories, does not specify processes. In other words, it is one thing to identify a linguistic intelligence but quite another to specify the underlying processes.  How do we read, learn vocabulary, write prose or poetry, produce oral speech, summarize, and so on?  HEG's theory names the so-called intelligences without pinning down just what they are (and aren't)" (p. 42).

Sternberg continues his critique of HEG by calling Gardner's MIT model "a theory of talents, not one of intelligences" (p. 42).  Sternberg sees the difference between talent and intelligence as qualitative by stating "[I]ntelligence is general: without it we cannot function independently.  Talents, however, are specialized" (p. 42).

Sternberg, R. J.  (1988).  The triarchic mind: A new theory of human intelligence.  New York: Penguin Books.

Sternberg, R. J.  (1991).  Death, taxes, and bad intelligence tests.  Intelligence, 15(3), 257-270.

Here, Sternberg writes that bad intelligence tests seem as inescapable as death and taxes. However, new theories of intelligence are resulting in some promising developments. Sternberg describes thirteen (13) approaches to the measurement of intelligence; he divides then into the following categories: classical psychometric; developmental; culture-sensitive; cognitive; biological; and systems.

And, like so many other intelligence theorists, Sternberg criticizes HEG for confounding talents and abilities with intelligence.

Sternberg, Robert Jeffrey and Frensch, P. A.

(1990).  Intelligence and cognition.  In M. W. Eysenck (Ed.), International review of cognitive psychology. Chichester: Wiley. 

In critiquing HEG's MIT, Sternberg and Frensch write that "it seems strange to describe someone who is tone deaf or physically uncoordinated as unintelligent" (p. 193).  But in defense, Gardner believes that if spatial or musical ability must be called a "talent", then language and logic must be called merely a talent as well.  I'm going to give HEG the final word here when he comments "I balk at the unwarranted assumption that certain human abilities can be arbitrarily singled out as intelligence while others cannot" (Peterson, 1997, p. D2).

Theiler, Janine  (2006).  A Comparative Study: Ericsson's Theory of Expertise and Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  University of Nebraska at Lincoln. 

Here, Theiler discusses an explorative study where Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences (MIT) was matched with Anders Ericsson's Expertise Theory.  Throughout, Gardner's MIT is once again somewhat sneered.

Traub, James  (1998, October 26.)  Multiple intelligence disorder: Howard Gardner's campaign against logic  The New Republic, pp. 20-23.

James Traub is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.  On October 26, 1998, he wrote an article for The New Republic, wherein he commented that Gardner's system of multiple intelligences had not been accepted by most academics in intelligence or teaching.  In other words, Gardner had failed to persuade his peers.  Traub commented that the scientific establishment has never fully accepted Gardner's MI on intellectual quotient (IQ).  He wrote that this has not stopped educators from using Gardner's teachings to transform American schools. 

Here are clips from his article. 

"Gardner failed to persuade his peers. George Miller, the esteemed psychologist credited with discovering the mechanisms by which short-term memory operates, wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Gardner's argument boiled down to "hunch and opinion." And Gardner's subsequent work has done very little to shift the balance of opinion. A recent issue of Psychology, Public Policy, and Law devoted to the study of intelligence contained virtually no reference to Gardner's work. Most people who study intelligence view M.I. theory as rhetoric rather than science, and they're divided on the virtues of the rhetoric. Steven Ceci, a developmental psychologist at Cornell, praises Gardner as "a wonderful communicator" who has publicized "a much more egalitarian view of intelligence." But he points out that Gardner's approach of constructing criteria and then running candidate intelligences through them, while suggestive, provides no hard evidence--no test results, for example--that his colleagues could evaluate. Ceci adds: "The neurological data show that the brain is modular, but that does not address the issue of whether all these things are correlated or not." Track-and-field athletes, he notes, may have special gifts in one particular event, but they will score better than the average person on every event. Psychological tests show the same kind of correlations."

"In the 15 years since the publication of Gardner's Frames of Mind, multiple intelligences has gone from being a widely disputed theory to a rallying cry for school reformers to a cultural commonplace.  And, amazingly, it has done so without ever winning over the scientific establishment."

"Gardner's central claim is that what we normally think of as intelligence is merely a single aspect, or two aspects, of a much wider range of aptitudes; he has counted eight so far.  Thus, we have exalted the attribute measured by IQ tests -- the hyperlogical style Gardner half jokingly calls the "Alan Dershowitz" model of intelligence -- and have slighted our creative and interpersonal gifts.  Of course, the primary question about this theory is whether or not it's true".

[ snip ]

Here we come to the heart of the problem with multiple intelligences--not as theory, but as practice. M.I. theory has proved powerful not because it's true but because it chimes with the values and presuppositions of the school world and of the larger culture. When theories escape into the world, they get used in ways that their inventors could scarcely have predicted or even approved. Gardner hasn't been quite sure where his responsibility lies in such matters. He told me that he cannot be the "policeman" of the world he set into motion, though he has, increasingly, been its poster boy. Gardner has begun to speak out against some of the more extreme uses of his theory, and critics like educational historian Diane Ravitch have urged him to do more. When I showed Gardner copies of some of the exercises in Celebrating Multiple Intelligences, he scrutinized them carefully, frowned, and said, " The only answer I can give to this is: I would certainly not want to be in a school where a lot of time was spent doing these things."

[ snip ]

To grasp Traub's overall message, the more interested reader is referred to the entire article @

Waterhouse, Lynn  (2006).  Inadequate evidence for multiple intelligences, Mozart effect, and emotional intelligence theories.  Educational Psychologist, 41(4), 247–255.


I (Waterhouse, 2006) argued that, because multiple intelligences, the Mozart effect, and emotional intelligence theories have inadequate empirical support and are not consistent with cognitive neuroscience findings, these theories should not be applied in education.  Proponents countered that their theories had sufficient empirical support, were consistent with cognitive neuroscience findings, and should be applied in education (Cherniss, Extein, Goleman, & Weissberg, 2006; Gardner & Moran, 2006; Rauscher & Hinton, 2006).  However, Gardner and Moran offered no validating evidence for multiple intelligences, Rauscher and Hinton concluded that “listening-to-Mozart” studies should be disregarded, and Cherniss, Extein, Goleman, and Weissberg agreed that emotional intelligence lacked a unitary empirically supported construct.  My reply addresses theory proponents’ specific criticisms of my review and reasserts my original claims.

Her article can be viewed here

Willingham, Daniel T.  (2004,Summer).  Reframing the Mind: Howard Gardner and the theory of multiple intelligences, Education Next, 4(3), 19-24.  Throughout, Willingham critiques Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. 

To see Willingham's web page, go to

Here is the final part of his review:

"Multiple Talents

One may wonder how educators got so confused by Gardner’s theory. Why do they believe that intelligences are interchangeable or that all intelligences should be taught? The answer is traceable to the same thing that made the theory so successful: the naming of various abilities as intelligences.

Why, indeed, are we referring to musical, athletic, and interpersonal skills as intelligences? Gardner was certainly not the first psychologist to point out that humans have these abilities. Great intelligence researchers–Cyril Burt, Raymond Cattell, Louis Thurstone–discussed many human abilities, including aesthetic, athletic, musical, and so on. The difference was that they called them talents or abilities, whereas Gardner has renamed them intelligences. Gardner has pointed out on several occasions that the success of his book turned, in part, on this new label: “I am quite confident that if I had written a book called ‘Seven Talents’ it would not have received the attention that Frames of Mind received.” Educators who embraced the theory might well have been indifferent to a theory outlining different talents–who didn’t know that some kids are good musicians, some are good athletes, and they may not be the same kids?

Gardner protests that there is no reason to differentiate–he would say aggrandize–linguistic and logico-mathematical intelligences by giving them a different label; either label will do, but they should be the same. He has written, “Call them all ‘talents’ if you wish; or call them all ‘intelligences.’” By this Gardner means that the mind has many processing capabilities, of which those enabling linguistic, logical, and mathematical thought are just three examples. There is no compelling reason to “honor” them with a special name, in his view.

Gardner has ignored, however, the connotation of the term intelligence, which has led to confusion among his readers. The term intelligence has always connoted the kind of thinking skills that make one successful in school, perhaps because the first intelligence test was devised to predict likely success in school; if it was important in school, it was on the intelligence test. Readers made the natural assumption that Gardner’s new intelligences had roughly the same meaning and so drew the conclusion that if humans have a type of intelligence, then schools should teach it.

It is also understandable that readers believed that some of the intelligences must be at least partially interchangeable. No one would think that the musically talented child would necessarily be good at math. But refer to the child as possessing “high musical intelligence,” and it’s a short step to the upbeat idea that the mathematics deficit can be circumvented by the intelligence in another area–after all, both are intelligences.

In the end, Gardner’s theory is simply not all that helpful. For scientists, the theory of the mind is almost certainly incorrect. For educators, the daring applications forwarded by others in Gardner’s name (and of which he apparently disapproves) are unlikely to help students. Gardner’s applications are relatively uncontroversial, although hard data on their effects are lacking. The fact that the theory is an inaccurate description of the mind makes it likely that the more closely an application draws on the theory, the less likely the application is to be effective. All in all, educators would likely do well to turn their time and attention elsewhere." 

To read his full review, go here

Critiques by Those who Question Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory Home

Revised on Wednesday, 18 June, 2014