How Smart Are You?

By: Glenda G. Lofton, Ph.D.

Feb 19, 2019


How smart are you, and how do you know? Have you ever had an intelligence test based on the notion that intelligence can be objectively measured and reduced to a single number or “IQ” score? Do you base your beliefs on past successes and failures, particularly in school? Have certain individuals in your life influenced your perception of your ability:  a teacher who humiliated you in front of the class, a well-meaning parent who focused on your limitations rather than your strengths?

On-going studies suggest that our potential for growth and development is influenced not so much by biology, but by our own perception of what it means to be smart and what we are capable of doing.  In 1983 Howard Gardner, a Harvard psychologist, broadened the scope of human potential by challenging the view of intelligence as a fixed, unitary trait and proposing the theory of multiple intelligences. Thus far, he has identified “eight kinds of smart” that can be developed and used in everyday life to solve problems and increase our opportunities for success: 

Word Smart: verbal-linguistic intelligence, the ability to speak and write effectively (teacher, journalist)

Logic Smart: logical-mathematical intelligence, the ability to work effectively with numbers and to reason well (accountant, computer programmer).

Picture Smart: spatial intelligence, the ability to think in three dimensions, to create visually and visualize accurately (interior decorator, architect).

Body Smart: bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, the ability to use a variety of physical skills, to use the hands to fix or create, and to use the body expressively (athlete, mechanic).

Music Smart: musical intelligence, the ability to create and analyze music (composers, music critics).

People Smart: interpersonal intelligence, the ability to understand and work with people and to help people identify and overcome problems (manager, salesperson).

Self-Smart: intrapersonal intelligence, the ability to understand oneself and to use that in planning and directing one’s life (clergyman, program planner).

Nature Smart: naturalist intelligence, the ability to analyze situations and data in the natural world and work in natural settings (zoologist, park ranger).

How smart are you? Most of us have and use the eight kinds of smart to some degree and are capable of improving in each, but hardly any of us excels in all eight areas. Unfortunately, schools and IQ tests have traditionally focused on developing and rewarding the verbal and logical-mathematical intelligences.  Too often our beliefs about how smart we are and what we are capable of doing have been determined by what we have achieved in these two overemphasized areas. Equally sad are the missed opportunities to develop the less valued intelligences that contribute to increased effectiveness and balance in our lives.

When I taught second grade, I had a student who had a lot of difficulty in reading, but at seven he was already a skilled horseman and had won numerous awards in competitions. “I’ll help you read,” I told him," if you’ll teach me about horses.” Gardner notes that people make their mark in life by doing what they can do, not what they can’t...Being happy is using your skills productively, no matter what they are.” The productive work environment helps us build on our strongest intelligences and to work together to compensate for and develop our weakest intelligences.

About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton Staffing can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Celebrating 40 years in staffing excellence! Contact us today.   


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