Essay Example on Human Intelligence: A Controversial Topic for Centuries

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  814 Words
Date:  2023-02-09


For centuries, scholars have been fascinated by the nature of human intellect. Explorations into human intelligence can be traced to as far as Plato and Aristotle (Deary, 2000). The emergence of psychology as a discipline distinct from biology, philosophy, and mathematics fuelled further study into human intelligence. However, regardless of the tens of years that have been spent studying human intelligence, it remains a controversial topic and lacks a standard definition. While some psychologists define human intelligence as a single or general ability, others hold that it includes a variety of skills, aptitudes, and talents. It is agreed, however, that human intelligence encompasses the ability to learn, recognize, and solve problems. The causes of intelligence are also a source of controversy. For years, psychologists have debated over whether intelligence is hereditary (Plomin & Deary, 2015). To answer this question, Robert Plomin holds that the differences observed in intelligence tests are a result of genetic differences (Kong, 2016). Moreover, the debate on whether human intelligence can be accurately measured also exists. To answer these questions, various scholars have proposed different theories over the years to explain the nature of human intelligence (Sternberg, 2018). This paper seeks to discuss one of these theories and the ways of testing intelligence using it.

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Theories of Intelligence

The multiple intelligences (MI) theory advanced by Howard Gardner offers one of the best representations of human intelligence. In this theory, Gardner holds that numerical representations of human intelligence like the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test do not give an accurate depiction of one's abilities (Gardner, 2011). He maintains that intelligence is multifaceted and goes ahead to describe nine intellectual modalities that make up human intelligence. The intelligences he describes are intellectual abilities and not learning styles. The modalities include linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, musical intelligence, naturalistic intelligence, and existential intelligence (Gardner, 2011).

The incorporation of the nine modalities brilliantly captures the complexity of human intelligence and hence is representative of different cultures and environments. Moreover, it is inaccurate to take human intelligence merely as a summation of linguistic or mathematical proficiency. Memory capacities and cognitive processing speeds can also not solely explain human intelligence. Empirical research has supported the theory (Shearer & Karanian, 2017). Therefore, the MI theory captures human intelligence more conclusively than any other theory.

Testing the Multiple Intelligence Theory

Various tests have been developed based on the theory. The tests involve a set of questions that one should answer to measure their proficiency in each of the intellectual modalities (Literacy Works, 2019). The results are then displayed in percentages. Though the multiple intelligence theory offers a conclusive explanation of human intelligence, some of the modalities have not been verified scientifically. The results may, therefore, be unreliable. However, the test gives a good idea of the faculties in which one is good or weak at. Teachers and tutors can use the tests to determine the intelligences that their learners are strongest in. This can, in turn, help improve learning (Lai & Yap, 2016).


Though human intelligence has been studied for several years, its definition, causes, and testing remain controversial. Some psychologists such as Robert Plomin hold that genetics play a critical role in human intelligence. Other scholars have developed various theories over the years to answer these questions. The MI theory by Howard Gardner presents the most conclusive representation of human intelligence. By describing nine distinct modalities, the theory captures the complexity of human intelligence. There exist various tests that can be taken to determine one's strongest modalities. However, the results only give an idea of one's strength in the various modalities and not a definite answer.


Deary, I. J. (2000). Looking down on human intelligence: From psychometrics to the brain (Vol. 34). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from

Gardner, H. (2011). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Kong, R. (2016, May 1). Is Intelligence Hereditary? Retrieved from Scientific American:

Lai, H.-Y., & Yap, S.-L. (2016). Application of Multiple Intelligence Theory in the Assessment for Learning. Assessment for Learning Within and Beyond the Classroom, 427-436. Retrieved from

Literacy Works. (2019). Multiple Intelligences. Retrieved from Literacy Works:

Plomin, R., & Deary, I. J. (2015). Genetics and intelligence differences: five special findings. Molecular psychiatry, 20(1), 98. Retrieved from

Shearer, B. C., & Karanian, J. M. (2017). The neuroscience of intelligence: Empirical support for the theory of multiple intelligences? Trends in neuroscience and education, 6, 211-223. Retrieved from

Sternberg, R. J. (2018). Theories of intelligence. Retrieved from

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Essay Example on Human Intelligence: A Controversial Topic for Centuries. (2023, Feb 09). Retrieved from

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