Frames of Mind Book Summary - Frames of Mind Book explained in key points
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Frames of Mind summary

Howard Gardner

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

4.5 (393 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

'Frames of Mind' by Howard Gardner explores the theory of multiple intelligences, arguing against the traditional view of intelligence as a uniform, static quality, and instead proposing that there are several distinct types of intelligence that can be developed and nurtured.

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    Frames of Mind
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    The modern conception of intellect is severely limited.

    Picture three individuals. The first is a 12-year-old Puluwat boy from the Caroline Islands. His elders have selected him to become a master sailor, which he’ll do by combining extensive knowledge of sailing, stars, and geography. The second individual is a 15-year-old Iranian boy who’s memorized the entire Koran, mastered Arabic, and is now going to a holy city to learn to become a religious leader. The third and final individual is a 14-year-old Parisian girl who’s just learned how to use a computer program to compose musical pieces.

    Three competent individuals, each taking on a challenging task and attaining a high degree of achievement – you could reasonably say that they all exhibit intelligent behavior. Yet current methods of assessing intelligence have no way of measuring their potential or achievements.

    The key message here is: The modern conception of intellect is severely limited.

    The word intelligence has been used so often that it naturally conjures up images of itself as a tangible, measurable quality. But it’s better used as a convenient shorthand that describes a person’s potential to attain a high degree of competence in a particular area. Which areas, exactly? 

    Well, the author’s list consists of seven intelligences: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal. 

    To come up with that list, he used several criteria. One is that, for a competence to be considered a distinct type of intelligence, it must be possible for brain damage to isolate it. That is, if a particular area of a person's brain is damaged, their skill in that specific area must be markedly diminished with little or no impact on their other abilities.

    However, the competence being considered must also enable individuals to find and solve problems. For instance, the ability to recognize faces can be isolated by brain damage, so it meets the first criterion. But the ability to recognize faces doesn’t lend itself to problem-solving or the acquisition of new knowledge, so it’s not an intelligence. 

    Importantly, the author acknowledges that his list of criteria is by no means definitive. That’s because he’s considering intelligence broadly, taking into account multiple levels of analysis. It’d only be possible to come up with a complete list if you stuck to one level, like neurophysiology. But that would mean ignoring other possible levels of analysis, like the correlations between competences and outcomes and how well they predict a person’s academic success. 

    Of course, this limitation raises a question: Why try to define intelligences at all?

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    What is Frames of Mind about?

    Frames of Mind (1983) is a landmark text that first proposed the psychological theory of multiple intelligences. Upending the long-held conception that intelligence is just one general, monolithic trait, it argues instead that there are several intelligences that everyone possesses in different quantities. By studying them, educators and policymakers can reshape the educational system to benefit a much greater number of students than the current programs do.

    Frames of Mind Review

    Frames of Mind (1983) explores the theory of multiple intelligences and challenges conventional views of intelligence. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a compelling argument for the existence of different types of intelligence, expanding our understanding of human capabilities.
    • Provides real-life examples and case studies that illustrate how different intelligences manifest in various individuals and cultures.
    • Challenges the traditional educational system, offering insights for educators and parents on how to foster diversity and promote individual strengths.

    Who should read Frames of Mind?

    • Psychology fans interested in one of the field’s significant texts
    • Educators, teachers, and tutors who want to better understand their students
    • Anyone fascinated by the human mind

    About the Author

    Howard Gardner is a developmental psychologist famous for his theory of multiple intelligences. He has written 30 books and received a litany of awards for his work, including the 1981 MacArthur Fellowship and the 2020 Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award. Currently, he is a research professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, an adjunct professor of psychology at Harvard University, and director of The Good Project, which strives to teach people how to resolve ethical dilemmas.

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    Frames of Mind FAQs 

    What is the main message of Frames of Mind?

    Understanding intelligence through multiple intelligences.

    How long does it take to read Frames of Mind?

    The reading time for Frames of Mind varies. But you can read the Blinkist summary much faster.

    Is Frames of Mind a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Frames of Mind is worth reading. It offers insights into the different ways we can be intelligent.

    Who is the author of Frames of Mind?

    Howard Gardner is the author of Frames of Mind.