Understanding Intrapersonal Intelligence
Intrapersonal intelligence is one of the eight multiple intelligences coined by Howard Gardner. The Multiple Intelligence Theory suggests that there are eight “modalities of intelligence,” which challenges the belief that intelligence only has to do with having a certain IQ score. The eight multiple intelligences are spatial, linguistic, naturalist, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal and intrapersonal.
Whereas interpersonal intelligence has to do with relating with other people, intrapersonal intelligence has to do with understanding oneself. Those who have high intrapersonal intelligence may find success in the field of psychology, research, writing, and art.
Intrapersonal Intelligence: A Quick History Lesson
Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, known as the philosophers who encouraged people to reflect, contemplate and examine ideas. These thinkers shaped much of Western philosophy and influenced writers like Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Friedrich Nietzsche; Howard Gardener was influenced by the writings of Nietzsche.
One of the most famous geniuses from the 1900s, Albert Einstein, was thought to have had high intrapersonal intelligence. He possessed distinct characteristics that are unique to this group of intelligence. Those who have high intrapersonal intelligence are said to be self-motivated, introverted, and prefer to work independently.
They enjoy activities like journaling and mind mapping as this allows them to put their thoughts on paper. This is one of the ways that help them organize the many thoughts that go through their mind.
Joan Didion, Writer
Joan Didion is a well-known writer who is famous for her ability to clearly express her thoughts and in an organized way. In her book called “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Didion tells her experience of grief when her husband, John Gregory Dunne, passed away suddenly, followed by her daughter’s declining health. She uses the term “magical thinking” to show how she processed the experience in the months following her husband’s death. Through her work, Didion navigated her experience of grief—a topic so personal yet universal with so much clarity.
Developing Intrapersonal Intelligence
Intrapersonal intelligence can be developed through journaling, introspection, writing, creating mind maps. These activities are concerned with exploring one’s inner thoughts, feelings, and mechanisms.
In the school setting, this can be developed by encouraging students to reflect on their feelings, on lessons taught, and putting these thoughts into writing.
1. Give students a daily writing prompt: a short exercise where they can write a paragraph about a given topic
2. Reflection/thought papers: encourage students to think about topics discussed and lessons learned from assigned readings
As with the other multiple intelligences, intrapersonal intelligence is not fixed—it can evolve through time and enough practice. It would be good to offer activities and opportunities that encourage students who possess this natural ability. Likewise, teachers should design activities that will allow students who do not naturally intrapersonal intelligence to tap into this domain.