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Compare and Contrast Spearman and Gardner Intelligence Models

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In this paper I will compare and contrast Spearman’s Model of Intelligence and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence models. One theory of intelligence states that there is one general school of thought and the other theory believes there are multiple schools of thought. Spearman’s general ability, or a “g” factor, believe that this is the only factor that measures intelligence, whereas, Gardner’s multiple intelligence believes there are more than one factor (Wade & Tavris, 2006, pp. 322 & 328).

Spearman’s theory is supported by a high IQ and very simple cognitive tasks. These tests are considered very simple; for example, one test that might be done is to see how fast a person reacts to hearing a sound by raising their hands. On the other hand, Gardner’s theory has a solid biological basis, and has biological facts. He studies the different parts of the brain of different individuals, because no two individuals are alike.

Spearman believes that no matter what the single factor is, it can be defined as intelligence (Wade & Tavris, 2006). This means that he believes the human mind processes information and people react to different situations on one single factor in the brain. He does not believe like Gardner does, that the brain has different parts that control different aspects of human intelligence. But, whereas, Gardner believes that there are seven different areas of the brain so therefore, there are seven different forms of intelligence, they are: linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily, interpersonal, intrapersonal and logic-mathematical (Plucker, 2003). He believes that each is related to different portions of the brain. For example, he explains that people with brain damage in one area of the brain, does not mean they lose their competence in other areas of the brain (Wade & Tavris, 2006). He also, unlike Spearman, thinks that if someone had a disability in one area that they are able to be productive in other different areas.

Another area of difference in these two models of intelligence theories is the process of how intelligence is determined. Spearman’s belief is that speed of which information is processed is the essential determination of the level of intelligence of an individual. In other words, it depends on how fast someone can arrange blocks to resemble a design, assemble puzzles, use a coding scheme, or judge what behavior is appropriate for a given situation (Wade & Tavris, 2006, p. 321). He does not believe that the brain uses different parts to figure out different problems or situations; it is all done with the whole brain. Whereas, Gardner’s definition of intelligence views it as many things, he defines it in a much broader way than Spearman. His theory is that people develop intelligence by a development process (Plucker, 2003). For example, people take courses at a vocational school to learn a specific trade; therefore they are going through a learning process which in turn gives them the intelligence to perform a certain job like, a beautician or a mechanic.

After researching both of these theories, I believe that the “multiple intelligence” is used more today in psychology than the “general factor”. People have different levels of intelligence because of; one, what type of culture they have, two, if they have any form of disabilities, three, their up-bringing at home, and four, what that person wants to achieve in his or her life, all of these, to me, have to do with a persons intelligence.

Spearman’s “g” factor is solely based on specific abilities and talents measured by intelligence test (Wade & Tavris, 2006). Therefore, his theory means, how a person does on a test is how intelligence is determined. I disagree with his theory because if someone has just a learning disability, that does not mean that person can not do anything else. That person might be good at art, or just have a problem taking written test, but can pass a test if it is given verbally. With Spearman’s theory this person would be considered to not be very intelligent, but with Gardner’s theory this person would be considered to be highly intelligent, even if he or she could not pass a written IQ test, because his theory does not have one approach, it identifies the capabilities for one of the “multiple intelligence” that meet several criteria (Plucker, 2003).

In conclusion, both theories do have some flaws. Spearman’s theory flaw was the scoring method of a persons IQ. The test he used was one test given to everyone and did not consider the “mental age” of the person (Wade & Tavris, 2006). If the person was fourteen, but had a “mental age” of an eight year old, he or she would not score well on a test that is designed for a fourteen year old, because of the “mental age” he or she has. In Gardner’s theory the only drawback is it is difficult to confirm because of the involvement with the human brain (Plucker, 2003). The human brain is a complex organ and hard to understand. Today, even with the use of MRI’s and CT scans there are many unanswered question about the human brain and how it works. For example, no one knows for sure why we have serial killers, or child molesters. The medical and psychology field work together to try and figure out why some people do what they do. I believe that Gardner’s theory opened the door for more research and has helped people in these types of professions to try and figure out how the human brain works.

I still believe that Gardner’s theory is used more, but has expanded with more details than just the seven different forms he based his theory on. I don’t see any of Spearman’s theory used today. We still have IQ test that are given, but now days, if a child can not do a written test, it can be given verbally and the child is not considered to have no “intelligence”. I believe there is still research to be done to be able to fine a “true” definition of intelligence.


Plucker, J. A. (Ed). (2003). Human Intelligence: Historical Influences, Current, Contraversies,

Teaching Resources. Retrieved September 19, 2006 from: http://www.indiana.edu/~intel

Wade, C. & Tavris, C. (2006). Psychology. (8th Ed.) Pearson Education Incorporated. Upper

Saddle River, NJ Pearson Prentice Hall.

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