Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence Essay
Harvard University professor and author of many books and articles, Howard Gardner (1983) changed our views about intelligence forever when he proposed in his famous book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, that there are actually seven kinds of intelligences as opposed to the singular type of genetic intelligence that had built the foundation of the Stanford-Binet IQ Test.
According to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, it is possible for a child to be a genius in terms of interpersonal intelligence, and a nerd in logical-mathematical intelligence, and yet fail in school because his or her greatest strength lies in a high level of bodily-kinesthetic awareness and the teacher of the pupil does not know how the child must be taught with special reference to his or her principal abilities.
Thomas Armstrong, the author of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, states that children with a higher than usual degree of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence should be taught spelling, for example, by associating it with movement. As an example, “a teacher might try to connect sitting with consonants and standing with vowels” (Willingham, 2004). Indeed, Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences has led not only to new ideas like the one put forth by Armstrong, but it has also led to a revolution in the study of intelligence.
In his groundbreaking book, Frames of Mind, Gardner discussed the following seven kinds of intelligences that the academic world was especially required to pay attention to for student evaluations as well as teaching (that is, for special learning styles based on specific kinds of intelligences): (1) linguistic intelligence, described as a “sensitivity to the meaning and order of words;” (2) logical-mathematical intelligence, or the “ability in mathematics and other complex logical systems” such as software programming; (3) musical intelligence, which is “the ability to Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 2
understand and create music;” (4) spatial intelligence, defined as the “ability to ‘think in pictures,’ to perceive the visual world accurately, and recreate (or alter) it in the mind or on paper;” (5) bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, or “the ability to use one’s body in a skilled way, for self-expression or toward a goal;” (6) interpersonal intelligence, also called social intelligence, which is “an ability to perceive and understand other individuals – their moods, desires, and motivations;” and finally, (7) intrapersonal intelligence or “an understanding of one’s own emotions” via introspection (Guignon, 1998).
Also according to Frames of Mind, an individual does not have to possess all of the above seven intelligences in order to be “smart. ” Rather, anybody who possesses and/or expresses a higher than usual level of a particular type of intelligence happens to be smart in her or her own way. The body smart people, according to Gardner’s theory, are those who possess and/or express a higher level of awareness with respect to the use of the body. Gerald Grow explains Gardner’s bodily-kinesthetic intelligence theory further:
The core elements of the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are control of one’s bodily motions and capacity to handle objects skillfully. Gardner elaborates to say that this intelligence also includes a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses so they become like reflexes. Along with these, you often find a high degree of fine-motor control and a gift for using whole body motions. These abilities may not seem very impressive, at first glance. Bodily intelligence is not widely appreciated in our culture.
Calling it an “intelligence” is almost startling, though less Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 3 so after Gardner has called upon Marcel Marceau, athletes, actors, inventors, and dancers to make his case for a bodily intelligence. Gardner cites a dancer’s conviction that we all have the capacity “to apprehend directly” the actions, feelings, or dynamic abilities of other people, without help from words or pictures. Dancers and actors draw on this ability; so do architects, who speak of “feeling in their bodies” the mass and proportion of a building. Surely this ability is at work when I waltz out
of an early Charlie Chaplin movie, feeling as though my whole being has been taught to dance. What light does it cast on writing if you assume–with Gardner–that people function with a bodily intelligence of equal status to the linguistic and logical intelligences? Consider how many kinesthetic expressions apply to the experience of reading. We speak, for example, of being “touched,” “taken,” “gripped,” “led,” “held. ” We “grapple” with difficult subjects, and have “gut wrenching” experiences. Our stomachs turn. Our hearts leap. Our breathing quickens.
We may tremble, sigh, and be “moved. ” These responses are rooted in kinesthetic experience. One of the principal ways of examining the development of a child is to look at his or her motor coordination, which is actually an essential part of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. In order to successfully perform various motor skills in their everyday life, human beings have to “coordinate movements of different body parts. ” There are countless “combinations of movements” that humans can perform with individual parts of the body. Moreover, it has been Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 4
found that humans are capable of producing precise as well as consistent patterns of movement in innumerable situations (Planinsec & Pisot, 2006). M. T. Turvey (1990) clearly linked motor coordination with general intelligence when he wrote that there are two defining characteristics of coordination, that is, the use of appropriate parts of the body or limbs, and the connection of coordination with time as well as space. In other words, an athlete or a dancer must not only know how to use the body for an effective performance, but also how to time the bodily movement in the given space with maximum accuracy.
This requires a high degree of “cognitive functioning” for sure, according to Planinsec & Pisot, who published a study in the journal, Adolescence, to help us understand the relationship between motor coordination and general intelligence in adolescents. According to K. A. Leithwood (1971), the process of learning new bodily movements is an intellectual one. Furthermore, researchers have found that children with above average cognitive skills are better performers of motor coordination tasks than are children with below average general intelligence.
More importantly, it is known to psychologists today that children with greater intelligence are better able to perform complex motor coordination activities (Planinsec & Pisot). Planinsec & Pisot similarly found that there is definitely a relationship between motor coordination and intelligence level. Their study confirmed the existence of Gardner’s proposed bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, and that, in fact, this type of intelligence is an important part of general intelligence.
The researchers also found that after taking an intelligence test that measured “fluid intelligence” in particular – that is, “the general neurophysiologic capacity of the Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 5 central nervous system for information processing” – adolescents with a higher level of fluid intelligence performed better on the motor activities presented to all adolescent participants in the study. While individuals with high levels of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence may be generally intelligent, it is possible for them to lack skills in other areas that are important to everyday living.
Researchers can expect intelligent people to handle their bodily movements better than the average. All the same, it is possible that a world-class dancer is musically unskilled or very poor at interpersonal relations. A skilled musician may similarly have problems learning new words or a dance step, even though he or she is musically gifted. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences does not necessitate an overall intelligence incorporating all types of abilities.
What is more, the author has been adding to the multiple intelligences over the years (Aborn, 2006). The fact remains, however, that there may be an unlimited number of skills that a human being may learn with the use of the different intelligences propounded by Gardner. Not all of the intelligences have to be high at the same time. Instead, it is possible for an individual to be musically gifted as well as generally intelligent, at the same time that it is possible for an individual to be a highly talented dancer and quite low at intrapersonal intelligence.
People who are gifted in any area of intelligence, such as bodily-kinesthetic, are most likely to be high in other type(s) of intelligence, although they do not have to be high in all areas of intelligence to be body smart. Additionally, even though it is possible for a body smart individual to make excellent crafts, it may be that the same individual finds it difficult to learn ballet. Bodily- Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 6 kinesthetic intelligence may not be ‘overall’ either; it may be concentrated in a single part of the body or especially expressed through a particular bodily movement.
Another important characteristic of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is that these special abilities may be learned. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence may be improved through sports and dance education, in addition to school theatre, crafts, cooking, and computers (Seitz). Children may also increase their bodily-kinesthetic intelligence by breaking and fixing things (Keith, 2007). Even so, there are many bodily gifted persons who do not require formal training to express their bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner Kersey, and Babe Ruth are among the many people who did not need formal training to show their high levels of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Scientists are additionally aware that body movements are controlled by the two hemispheres of the brain. In apraxia or other brain conditions, it may become impossible for the sufferers to control their muscle movements (Carvin). Hence, it may be possible that some people would never grow in bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, while others with brain circuitries conducive to high achievement in sports may be able to show high degrees of the same intelligence.
Psychology has no way of controlling the biological bases of intelligence. Nevertheless, the science of the brain does allow for gradual enhancements in the brain circuitry when an individual learns or practices certain tasks, and improves performance in those tasks. Although Gardner’s concept of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is said to be “controversial” because people like to take bodily movements in their stride – the fact is that bodily-kinesthetic intelligence continues to be an extremely important criterion for the evaluation of pupils’ Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 7 performance in early school years (Carvin).
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence also remains a fundamental part of our visual culture. Hence, Gardner and others continue to study this type of intelligence to increase our understanding of its relationship with overall intelligence. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence 8 References Aborn, Matt. (2006, September 22). An intelligent use for belief. Education. Carvin, Andy. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. Ed Web. Available 14 May 2007, from http://www. edwebproject. org/edref. mi. th2. html. Gardner, Howard. (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York, NY: Basic Books. Grow, Gerald.
“The Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. ” Writing & Multiple Intelligences. Working Paper. Florida A&M University. Available 14 May 2007, from http://www. longleaf. net/ggrow/7In/Bodily. html. Guignon, Anne. (1998). Multiple Intelligences: A Theory for Everyone. Education World. Available 14 May 2007, from http://www. education-world. com/a_curr/curr054. shtml. Keith, Kimberly L. (2007). Activities for the Kinesthetic Child. About. Available 14 May 2007, from http://childparenting. about. com/cs/k6education/a/kinesthetic_2. htm. Leithwood, K. A. (1971). Motor, cognitive, and affective relationships among advantaged preschool children.
Research Quarterly, 42(1), 47-53. Planinsec, J. , & Pisot, R. (2006, Winter). Motor coordination and intelligence level in adolescents. Adolescence. Seitz, Jay A. The Development of Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence in Children: Implications for Education and Artistry. School of Education, Adelphi University. Available 14 May 2007, from http://york. cuny. edu/~seitz/HolisticEd. html. Turvey, M. T. (1990). Coordination. American Psychologist, 45, 938-953. Willingham, Daniel T. (2004, Summer). Reframing the mind: Howard Gardner became a hero among educators simply by redefining talents as “intelligences. ” Education Next.