On the five types of intelligence and why we need to develop comprehensive intelligence tests that will measure all types of intelligence.

If in your teenage years you felt like an alien from another planet, felt like you could not relate to people, felt like a social misfit, odd, out of place, never had too many friends, felt like a loner, felt that the world is too stupid for you to be part of it, and still feel a bit out of place, my recommendation is that you go to the nearest psychology laboratory and measure your Intelligence Quotient (IQ). That’s what many young adults must do to avoid getting into a prolonged depression. Your IQ score if it’s unusually high or at the level of genius will give you significant insight into your own emotional condition and the state of the world around you. Then you’ll stop feeling depressed or suicidal and will simply start looking at the world from a different perspective. You’ll also find the apparent stupidity of the world around you rather amusing.

Intelligence is a general cognitive ability to acquire and apply knowledge. It also refers to learning, self-awarenesss, creativity and perception. Intelligence literally means to comprehend or perceive and most Western philosophers from Thomas Hobbes to David Hume have referred to intelligence as ‘understanding’. Understanding and perception are terms used by philosophers, although the concept of intelligence is considered very important in psychology.

Psychologists largely agree that intelligence is the ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt to the environment and to solve problems. A popular theory used by psychologists is the ‘two-factor theory’ of intelligence developed by Charles Spearman. Spearman used a statistical method called factor analysis to divide intelligence into the ‘g’ factor which largely stands for general factor and ‘s’ or specific factor that gives us unique or specific abilities to complete specific tasks.

The general factor or ‘g’ is very important as a person with a high general intelligence will be able to do or learn anything without much difficulty. Logic, spatial ability, linguistic and mathematical ability are all part of general intelligence. Academic achievements and occupational success are predicted with the g factor. According to this theory, the specific factor or ‘s’ could be musical or artistic ability or technical ability. Some people are more adept in using computers and technology and have a high ‘s’ factor related to technical ability. Psychologist Robert Sternberg identified three types of intelligence in his triarchic theory namely analytical, creative and practical. Analytical intelligence is the intelligence that you use to write analytical essays and the problem solving skills required for standardized tests. Creative intelligence is about coming up with novel ideas and concepts and indicates the level of creativity in a person. Practical intelligence has to do with logic and it is required to perform daily tasks.

In this exposition, I go beyond the theories of Intelligence in psychology and suggest that there are basically five types of intelligence –

General or Cognitive





I’m inclined to add ‘spiritual intelligence’, but spiritual awareness is a combination of creative and emotional intelligence, so I won’t put that in a separate category.

General or cognitive intelligence is similar to the g factor and relates to general intelligence. This is the intelligence measured in intelligence tests and if you get a high IQ score, it means you have a high general intelligence which makes you capable of handling all situations in an intelligent manner, whether you are running a business, playing chess or training your child. Creative geniuses as we know have high general intelligence and high levels of creative intelligence which is actually one’s ability to imagine or create things. If you have high creative intelligence it means you’ll be very creative in all situations, whether you’re writing a book, cooking or making love. A poet or an artist will tend to have high creative intelligence and high cognitive or general intelligence. A scientist will usually have large amounts of technical and theoretical knowledge and will thus have high technical intelligence and high general intelligence. Criminologists, psychologists, social workers, politicians deal with people all the time and these occupations need high general as well as high social intelligence.

Psychologists, politicians, parents, teachers require high social and high emotional intelligence along with the common general intelligence because emotions are the central part of a growing child or adolescents and teacher-student or parent-child relationships. Firefighters, rescue workers, emergency workers need very high levels of emotional intelligence along with high general intelligence. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, mechanics, engineers need technical skills and high levels of technical and general intelligence. Businessmen, entrepreneurs, innovators need varying levels of creative intelligence, general intelligence and technical intelligence depending on the focus of their business or enterprise. Professors and academics usually have very high levels of general intelligence, although they must have the requisite technical knowledge in a specific subject or subjects and thus tend to have high technical intelligence. Professors are also teachers so they must have social intelligence to successfully interact with their students. Journalists, diplomats, activists all have high levels of social intelligence along with the general intelligence..

Traditional IQ tests tend to measure just the general intelligence, and anyone with an IQ score of 145 and above is considered a genius. Yet IQ scores do not adequately measure the other types of intelligence. IQ tests don’t measure creative intelligence and yet highly creative people are considered geniuses. It is generally agreed that high creativity also indicates high intelligence. The logic is, when someone is highly intelligent and is able to manipulate several concepts, they are also able to come up with unique or creative solutions and ideas. Traditional IQ tests also don’t measure social intelligence or emotional intelligence. So these IQ tests may be fundamentally incomplete in a certain way.

It has been argued that high IQ people are not always socially and emotionally adjusted. I will argue, that geniuses are well liked in society and do have a high level of social and emotional intelligence. They also have high creative intelligence and high technical intelligence as they are especially interested in complex subjects. There may be some resistance to my argument that geniuses have high social and emotional intelligence because geniuses do have more social and emotional problems than most average intelligence people. They may not relate to people, may have a problem with self-control and could have a history of depression or addiction. However, they tend to have a strong sense of the appropriate social and emotional responses to situations. Highly intelligent people do know which would be the best social or emotional response in a specific situation. However it is possible that a person with a very high level of general intelligence or IQ may require some maturity or may need to reach a certain age before they develop very high levels of social or emotional intelligence. High IQ individuals typically need more time to understand how social norms work or how people react in social situations. This is because geniuses or high IQ people tend to remain preoccupied with abstract concepts, they are usually not interested in interacting with people, unless it’s a highly abstract intellectual discussion. The apparent stupidity of the world also seem rather baffling, so they retreat into their own world. Yet as I argued, high IQ people tend to have full understanding about appropriate social and emotional reactions and responses but may not always act that way.

Howard Gardner, a professor and psychologist at Harvard has recently proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. He has considered nine types of intelligence including linguistic, musical and existential intelligence. I would argue that musical and existential intelligences are part of a broader creative intelligence, according to my theory. Linguistic ability is almost a technical ability as you tend to see the connections between words and concepts quickly. Learning computer programming may be similar to learning a language, so linguistic skills are largely technical skills and linguistic ability requires technical intelligence along with a high level of general intelligence. Gardner also proposed bodily intelligence, but I would consider that as sensitivity or sense perception rather than intelligence. Pedagogical intelligence proposed by Gardner, requires social, technical and general intelligence. So, all of Gardner ‘s ”intelligences” can be grouped into the five types of intelligence I have presented.

As I already mentioned, we need to develop a comprehensive theory of intelligence and intelligence tests must measure all five types of intelligence, instead of just the general intelligence that largely defines IQ. Gardner’s theory of nine types of intelligence is not a very convincing theory, despite its popularity. Developing a comprehensive intelligence test with these five types of intelligence will help us to understand the overall abilities of a person and will be extremely helpful in occupational psychology, because all occupations seem to require high levels of general intelligence and one or two of the other four types of intelligence.

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