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Intelligence is a most widely studied aspect of human beings. Numerous definitions, theories and hypotheses have been put forward by various scholars since the turn of the twentieth century. However, no consensus on the definition of the same has been arrived at. In each definition though, several key aspects are explained together with intelligence. These include abstract thinking and understanding abilities, reasoning capacity, emotional intelligence as well as problem solving among others. These aspects are closely interrelated such that they naturally occur together. Sometimes reasoning and problem solving are regarded as subsets of intelligence.
Bustos (1980) defines intelligence as "a composite of general and specific abilities, characterizing and individual's level of neurological functioning in the context of his effectively applied experience and manifested in his dynamic coping with the challenges for adjustment which he makes in day-to-day living". This is a broad definition that incorporates different definitions from many psychologists into a single composite one. Various forms of intelligence have been conceptualized even though they fail to provide sufficient accounts of the entire understanding of the term intelligence. This paper aims at discussing the meaning of intelligence with reference to theories of single and multiple intelligences.
In everyday life, intelligence is often equated with brightness in learning, advanced language and psychological development or ability to acquire a variety of information swiftly and easily. More so, ability to understand instructions, to reason well and to be creative in certain situations is also regarded as intelligence. Therefore, if someone is seen to portray these behaviors, he is seen as intelligent and can perform intellectually. Additionally, if someone is excellent in a scientific field, achieves international merit for creativity or has contributed to critical problem solving ideas gains the respect of the society as an intelligent person.
All the same, different scientific and theoretical approaches have been used to describe intelligence in humans (Sternberg, 1982). Precisely, efforts have been made in the twentieth century to bring forth theoretical approaches that conceptualize intelligence. The most notable efforts were made by C.E. Spearman, L.L. Thurstone and J.P. Guilford to mention a few (Sharma & Chandra, 2003). These and other scholars have attempted to explain intelligence of in various contexts and approaches. The single and multiple intelligences theories will be assessed in this study.
The theory of multiple intelligences is among the recent ideas to emerge in psychology. It was introduced by Howard Gardner and it proposes that human intelligence is not a full and accurate description of someone's abilities. It describes several distinct intelligences based on skills and capabilities that are valuable within different cultures. Howard depicts these intelligences as visual, verbal, bodily, logical, interpersonal, musical, intrapersonal, and naturalistic intelligence. Gardner locates intelligence in the abilities of people and the products they are able to create in real world. He defines intelligence as "a biophysical potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture" (Viens & Kallenbach, 2004). It asserts a qualitative expression and a description of a person's collection of intelligences rather than general ability.
According to the theory of multiple intelligences, an individual has eight independent forms of being intelligent. Each type of intelligence is neurologically distinct in the way it is used in real world. In verbal intelligence, the key ability is linguistic intelligence. It involves generating written or spoken language. It allows communication through language to convey subtle meanings. Logical intelligence is mathematical. Individuals with this intelligence can use abstract relations using numbers and logical thinking. Musical intelligence entails perception of sound patterns. It means that an individual can communicate meaning through sound. Visual intelligence is spatial. It involves perceiving visual information and allows for recreation of perceived images from memory.
On the other hand, bodily or kinesthetic intelligence refers to the ability of an individual to control parts of the body, or to use them to create products or solve problems. Interpersonal intelligence involves understanding other people. Such a person is sensitive to other people's feelings, moods and intentions. Conversely, intrapersonal intelligence enables one to have self-knowledge, having an understanding of oneself and using this knowledge to make decisions. Lastly, naturalistic intelligence gives one the ability to understand the natural environment and to work effectively in it. It allows one to differentiate and classify various features of the environment such as plants and animals (Gardner, 1983).
Though psychologists agree that understanding intelligence is the ability to adapt to environment, scholars fail to agree to a single theory of intelligence. They believe that intelligence draws a lot from other abilities that cannot be measured by abstract means. In the single intelligence theory, a general mental ability is taken to represent intelligence. This is what determines the mental and intellectual performance of an individual. It highlights that those people who tend to perform well in mental ability can do equally as well in other areas. On the other hand, those who perform poorly in this area are more likely to perform poorly in other areas too. This theory led to the development of more comprehensive theories by different researchers.
In conclusion, someone is considered as intelligent depending on the areas they perform best; as far as the theory of multiple intelligences is concerned. Moreover, an individual may be regarded as intelligent if they portray significant mental and intellectual reasoning capacities. Biological research has also been reporting varied reports pertaining to intelligence. In this approach, the brain is the underlying biological organ that drives an individual's intellectual capabilities. In order to best understand intelligence, biological inferences should be incorporated into psychometric theories to generate a theory of intelligence that is unique.