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What do Pablo Picasso, Donatella Versace, and Louis Braille all have in common? They all have visual intelligence. Learn more about visual intelligence from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Possessing Visual Intelligence

Have you ever been told that you have an eye for detail? Maybe you are very aware of your surroundings. Do you have a photographic memory? If so, you have demonstrated visual-spatial intelligence.

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Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences

In the past century, numerous theories about intelligence have emerged. One of the more famous theories was created by developmental psychologist Howard Gardner in 1983.

Gardner proposed that intelligence is not made up of one factor, but rather eight. They are:

  1. Musical intelligence: includes your awareness of musical sounds, tones, and rhythms
  2. Naturalistic intelligence: includes your awareness of trees, mountains, flowers, and other elements found in nature
  3. Interpersonal intelligence: includes your ability to relate to those around you, understand their motivations, their goals, and their feelings
  4. Intrapersonal intelligence: includes your ability to understand yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your goals, and your motivation
  5. Logical/mathematical intelligence: includes your ability to reason, think critically and analytically, and your understanding of complex mathematical concepts
  6. Linguistic intelligence: includes your ability to appreciate language and use it effectively to accomplish goals
  7. Bodily/kinesthetic intelligence: includes your athletic ability and being aware of your body
  8. Visual-spatial intelligence: includes your ability to visualize, remember images and details, and an awareness of your surroundings

Each intelligence is independent of the others. This means that having a high level of one intelligence will not guarantee that you are high in the other intelligences. For example, a Spanish professor may have a strong appreciation for language (linguistic intelligence), but may have a hard time relating to his students (interpersonal intelligence).

Visual-Spatial Intelligence

Leonardo Da Vinci and I.

M. Pei are famous people with high visual-spatial, or visual, intelligence. In other words, they possess the ability to visualize the world accurately, modify their surroundings based upon their perceptions, and recreate the aspects of their visual experiences. People with high visual-spatial intelligence are good at remembering images, faces, and fine details.

They are able to visualize objects from different angles.People with high visual-spatial intelligence also have good spatial judgment and reasoning. That is, they are able to accurately judge the distance between themselves and an object, how far the object is to the right, etc. They are skilled at using their ability to visualize and their spatial judgment to complete tasks and projects that include design, judgment, and creativity. For this reason, they make good painters, artists, architects, engineers, and designers.Visual-spatial intelligence has also been found in individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For example, a blind individual who uses touch and spatial reasoning to calculate the size, shape, width, and length of an object, which results in an accurate visual picture of the object, is showing visual-spatial intelligence.

People with visual-spatial intelligence are known to:

  • Be very aware of their surroundings
  • Remember information by creating visual pictures
  • Be artistic
  • Have a good sense of direction
  • Have the ability to read maps and charts easily
  • Easily recognize patterns
  • Be skilled at solving visual puzzles
  • Be skilled at remembering and interpreting visual information
  • Be skilled at manipulating their physical surroundings

Examples of Visual Intelligence

  • Georges Braque is a famous French painter and sculptor that developed the art style known as cubism, in which objects were depicted from multiple viewpoints and angles.
  • James Cameron, a film director and producer, relies on his spatial judgment and his ability to visualize in order to create alternate worlds for his movies, such as Avatar, which remains one of the highest grossing films of all time.
  • Louis Braille was a blind man who used his visual-spatial intelligence to create the Braille system, which allows individuals with severe visual impairments to read and write.

Lesson Summary

Introduced by Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences, the term visual-spatial intelligence refers to the ability to visualize the world accurately, modify surroundings based upon one’s perceptions, and recreate the aspects of one’s visual experiences. People with visual-spatial intelligence, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, are skilled at visualizing things and using their visualization to complete tasks and projects, such as painters and sculptors. They also make good engineers, film directors, designers, and architects.

Learning Outcomes

Determine whether you have the ability to do the following after watching this video lesson on visual intelligence:

  • Enumerate Howard Gardner’s eight factors of intelligence
  • Note the unique characteristics of those who have visual-spatial intelligence
  • Name famous people who exhibit visual-spatial intelligence and give an example of each person’s work

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