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What do Socrates, Friedrich Nietzsche and Descartes all have in common? They all had intrapersonal intelligence. Learn more about intrapersonal intelligence from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Howard Gardner’s Theory

Have you ever been told that you are very self-aware? Maybe your professors have complimented you on your ability to understand your strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Do you find yourself spending lots of time reflecting on things and tuning into your inner feelings? If so, you have demonstrated intrapersonal intelligence.So, what do we mean by intrapersonal intelligence? Intrapersonal intelligence was first introduced by the American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner in 1983.

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Gardner wrote Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, in which he proposed the idea that there are seven different kinds of intelligence. In 1999, Gardner added one more intelligence to his list, bringing the total to eight. They are:

  1. Logical/mathematical intelligence: includes logical thinking, the ability to detect patterns and mathematical abilities.
  2. Musical intelligence: includes the ability to detect and appreciate musical patterns and pitches.
  3. Linguistic intelligence: includes the ability to learn languages, use words to accomplish goals and expressive language.
  4. Visual-spatial intelligence: includes the ability to recognize patterns across spaces and use or manipulate the patterns.
  5. Body/kinesthetic intelligence: includes the ability to use the body effectively to solve problems.

  6. Interpersonal intelligence: includes the ability to understand and relate to others.
  7. Naturalistic intelligence (added in 1999): includes knowledge about your environment and an appreciation for nature.
  8. Intrapersonal intelligence: includes understanding and appreciating one’s innermost feelings.

We can think of multiple intelligences as the ridges that make up a fingerprint. That is, each person has a combination of the intelligences that is unique to the individual. For example, a college basketball player may be skilled at scoring points for his team (body/kinesthetic intelligence), but have trouble keeping up in his statistics course (logical/mathematical intelligence).

What Is Intrapersonal Intelligence?

Henry David Thoreau, Socrates and Ralph Ellison are all historical figures that had high intrapersonal intelligence.

In other words, they had the ability to understand themselves, appreciate their own feelings, fears and motivations. People with intrapersonal intelligence are skilled at self-reflection and know themselves very well. They are in touch with themselves, who they are, what they need and what they can accomplish.People with intrapersonal intelligence are known to:

  • Be comfortable with themselves
  • Have a good sense of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Have a strong sense of identity and purpose
  • Follow their instincts and make good choices
  • Be strong-willed and have more confidence in themselves
  • Have good intuition
  • Make good independent learners
  • Be drawn to other people who have a high amount of self-awareness
  • Be a good judge of their reactions to potential situations
  • Know how to find resources when they need help
  • Make accurate decisions based on their self-knowledge


Philosophers with intrapersonal intelligence are able to use their knowledge of themselves and create theories that they apply to mankind as a whole. For example, Descartes used his awareness of himself to come up with ‘I think, therefore I am,’ which is one of the basic theories of human existence.Writers are able to use their strong sense of identity, purpose and morals to create stories that address intrapersonal conflict, morality and social issues that are relevant to their time and appeal to the masses.

Books such as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are examples of such works.

Lesson Summary

Intrapersonal intelligence refers to our ability to understand and appreciate our innermost feelings. People with intrapersonal intelligence, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, are highly motivated and confident. They are also able to know their strengths, weaknesses, values and morals.

People with intrapersonal intelligence make good writers, philosophers and poets.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the lesson, you should have the ability to:

  • Explain Howard Gardner’s theory on multiple intelligences
  • Describe what intrapersonal intelligence is
  • List examples of strong intrapersonal intelligence

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