Fluid intelligence is the one and only intelligence that we all have in common. And it is this one intelligence that determines how smart we are and how successful we will be in life.
Fluid intelligence is our ability to solve problems and relate disparate and apparently non-related pieces of information. The faster and more capable we are at solving problems, the more intelligent we are said to be.
Gardner’s Nine Intelligences Theory
In 1983, Gardner put forward the what I consider to be a dangerous theory: that there are nine intelligences:
An Outdated Theory
And yet, thanks to media hype, many people still cling to this theory and apply it to teaching and learning.
While it’s fair to say that many people exhibit superior intelligence in one or more of these areas, it’s safe to argue that superior skill in any of these areas is a combined result of natural aptitude and continuous and applied practice and the application of fluid intelligence.
For example: You may never have been able to learn a language at school but that doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent in this area. All that can be truly said is that you’ve not applied yourself to this area or that you have not used a suitable learning style.
The same idea applies to each intelligence that he advocates.
The danger of accepting Gardner’s theory at face value is that many people will breath a sigh of relief and give themselves permission not to work harder in areas where they are weak.
If they are strong in logic, and weak in EQ, it’s easy to shrug and say, “that’s not my area of intelligence”, or vice versa.
This is a particularly dangerous idea when it comes to children and education.
It allows teachers and parents to label children, who don’t excel in certain subjects or areas, and provide them an excuse not try harder in those areas. And in doing so the child will suffer. As such they should be considered dangerous labels.
Intelligence is not a skill.
It’s ok to be strong in one or two areas and weak in others because you don’t have the time or inclination to develop those weak areas.
You see this commonly with people who tell you they can’t do maths or that their memory is horrible. These very same people have no problem driving a car or recounting stories and events from years gone by never realising that they are using the very skills, that they so readily dismiss.
It’s not ok to say that your strong in one intelligence and not in others, purely on the basis that you don’t have the intelligence to excel in any other area, because there is only the one intelligence, fluid intelligence.
The other intelligences as put forward by Gardner are areas of expertise. And your skill level in them, as in all things in life, will be determined by how much effort you apply to mastering that level.
Practice in any of these areas, especially in our formative years, determines how well we develop in those areas. But our fluid intelligence is what determines our overall abilities. This is the reason why we develop differing skill levels.
It’s a combination of our basic intelligence and the amount of time and focussed effort we put into developing our skill sets.
So, the next time someone says that they are intelligent in one or other of Gardner’s nine intelligences, you’ll be able to explain to them that there is only “One Intelligence”.