Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence

bodily kinesthetic intelligenceAnyone interested in the way that human beings process information should investigate Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Of course, teachers would benefit greatly from this, as would most students. Particularly, those studying to become teachers should learn about this, since it affects both the way one learns and the way one teaches.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence is one of eight types proposed by Gardner, and is one of the most poorly understood. After we get a base of knowledge on the theory of multiple intelligences in general, we’ll zero in on Bodily-Kinesthetic.

In 1983, Howard Gardner wrote a book called “Frames of Mind.” In it, the psychologist, a professor of Education and Cognition at Harvard University, put forth the theory of multiple intelligences.

You may have spent your life contentedly thinking that there could only be one kind of intelligence. People have it or they don’t, the thinking goes. That couldn’t be more wrong, as we’ll see.

Gardner’s Theory

In his book, Gardner suggested a bold new idea that was a game-changer in the world of education, and which in fact forever altered the way that we think about intelligence. Every teacher learns about Gardner’s theory in college.

Anyone training to be a teacher, whether online or in a “brick and mortar” classroom, probably ought to investigate some online courses on that subject. One, the “Guide to Online Teaching” gears you up for that sort of teaching, and this course on “Online Teaching Jobs” will help you find employment. This blog entry by Natasha Quinonez, called “Teaching Styles,” may also be of interest. If you plan to go into adult education, a field in which many students learn best in this way, you might do well to take a look at this course, “Essentials of Adult Education.”

In “Frames of Mind,” Gardner made the assertion that “intelligence” as such is not a single ability of the mind, but rather a spectrum of differing modalities, each with its own area of specialization. There are eight different types of intelligence, and the idea is that all human beings have some of each type, but in varying amounts. Each of us has a unique combination of intelligences that gives us each our specific skill sets and abilities.

The eight types of intelligence outlined in Gardner’s book are visual-spatial, musical-rhythmic, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. You might be strongest in logical-mathematical intelligence but weak in the musical-rhythmic type, with the others falling somewhere in the middle in varying amounts. Of course, it is possible to be equally strong in two of the eight, or three of them as well.

It is also important to remember that we must not think of these modalities as restricting the way in which each of us thinks or learns. We all possess all of these types of intelligence, to varying degrees. Gardner himself responded to critics of his theory with the suggestion that these modalities are simply a way to find out where each person is strongest, with the idea that we may then utilize that understanding to develop new and effective approaches or pursue specific fields or careers.

It is also important to note that the notion of multiple intelligences should not be confused with the concept of “learning styles. “ Yes, the ideas are similar, and somewhat overlap, but the way someone learns best generally has more to do with sensory processing than with what type of intelligence he or she may possess. Gardner’s intelligence modalities do not necessarily suggest the best way for a person to learn—rather, they suggest a way to understand how that person thinks and where that person’s strengths lie.

Of course, Gardner’s theory has been debated, with many suggesting that it is an oversimplification of a far more varied and specific continuum. Others have gone the other way, saying that Gardner’s modalities are too narrowly defined, and that there are really only three types of intelligence. Once you know more about it, decide for yourself.

Definition of Intelligence

Those who are strong in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are comfortable in their bodies, secure in their physicality. It may seem a misnomer to refer to anything that has to do with the body and the use of it as a type of  “intelligence,” but in Gardner’s view, “intelligence” is defined in a specific way that may surprise you. For Gardner, “intelligence” means something more like “ability” or “aptitude” than the traditional definition of the word.

For Gardner, there are seven criteria that can be used to define “intelligence,” and they may surprise you. In order for Gardner to consider something to be a modality of “intelligence,” all seven of these conditions must apply. Firstly, the aptitude must have a place in evolutionary history. In other words, it must represent something that would give those who possess it an evolutionary advantage. Secondly, each type of intelligence must be associated with a particular and dedicated area of the brain, an area that when damaged can isolate that type of intelligence. Thirdly, the operations that form the core of that skill or aptitude must be clear and present in an individual and be specific to that skill. Fourth, the “intelligence” should be observable in isolated form (often to a great degree), such as in autistic savants or prodigies. Fifth, the intelligence has to be traceable developmentally in individuals. In other words, if you can plot the course of the ability as it develops, it is “an intelligence.” Sixth, the intelligence must have correlating support from psychometric findings such as IQ tests and other metrics. Seventh, the “intelligence” must be clearly ascertained through diagnostic psychological tasks. Lastly, the type of intelligence should have its own dedicated system of symbology that individuals who possess the intelligence become fluent in.

Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence

Intelligence of the Bodily Kinesthetic type generally involves abilities in controlling the motion of the body and in how skillfully the individual handles and manipulates objects. This also includes a sense of timing, a clear and intuitive sense of the goal of any physical action, and the ability to train and refine responses to physical stimuli.

If all that is just so much scientific babble to you, then think of it this way: people with this kind of intelligence are good at using their bodies. Dancers, athletes, mimes, musicians, actors, and anyone who works with their hands would fall into this category. If an individual possesses the physical skills needed for success in these or related areas, Gardner would say that individual possesses bodily kinesthetic intelligence.

In essence, those who reach a high level of performance in any of these areas is probably strongest in bodily kinesthetic intelligence, but not necessarily only in that type of intelligence. Those who are gifted with tremendous physical coordination, who feel comfortable in and connected to their bodies, and who have great control over their bodies—all are gifted in this area, and all are most likely going to learn best through doing, rather than by hearing, seeing, or reading. In other words, people with strong bodily kinesthetic intelligence are “hands on” learners, and may gravitate towards fields that allow or even require such skill.

Consider this: do you want a chiropractor who learns best by reading about how to manipulate your spinal column, or one who learns best with hands on, who has intelligence that does not depend on the conversion of information from one modality to another, but who learned his or her skills directly? Such people are intuitive and sure in their physical movements. The word “graceful” might often be used to describe such individuals. For those who might wish to increase their bodily kinesthetic intelligence in a fun and rewarding way, there is an online class to help release inhibitions for those who are uncomfortable in their bodies and have a hard time dancing in public, called “How to Dance at a Club.”

Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence in the Classroom

As we said earlier, those with strong bodily kinesthetic intelligence learn best by doing—they are most able to grasp new concepts when they have the chance to physically manipulate objects that represent those concepts. For example, math concepts that can be represented by three dimensional objects that can be manipulated are very helpful for someone with this type of intelligence, who learn best by doing.

Such people are also better able to learn when physical movement is involved in the process of learning. In other words, if you have this type of intelligence, you might not do so well if you are stuck behind a desk with a pen in your hand, taking notes. Such individuals need to be physically involved in the learning process.

Summing Up

Bodily kinesthetic intelligence is, as should be clear by now, much more complex than simply a set of interesting and helpful skills or abilities. Along with the other modalities that Gardner introduced to us back in 1983, is one of the ways that all people, to a greater or lesser extent, perceive the universe and express their individuality. Whether you are a teacher, a student, or just someone interested in the ways people learn and the ways they express their intelligence, it is worth your while to learn more about Gardner’s system. In particular, learning which type of intelligence is strongest in you may help you to understand yourself more clearly. If you learn that you are strong in bodily kinesthetic intelligence, it might help you to understand why you are a good dancer, or why you never hit your thumb with the hammer when putting something together. It even might help you to make a career choice that allows you to use your specific blend of intelligences.