The 8 Types of Creative Intelligence

Multiple Intelligences

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

(Albert Einstein)

Are you attempting to unleash creativity through familiar, comfortable pathways? If so you’re only human – but remember that creativity thrives on novelty.

The eight multiple intelligences described by Howard Gardner offer plenty of options for the novelty-seeker. Though each of us is endowed with all eight of the multiple intelligences, generally we rely on the same few. We tend to choose the ones that work best for us or that draw our interest.

If you stay within intelligence comfort zones, you fall into familiar ruts. So here’s a rich menu of suggestions for experimenting with your eight types of creative intelligence. Choose an activity or two to try that’s out of your comfort zone to stretch learning and build new dendrites, as Dr. Ellen Weber puts it.

Image by Dierk Schaefer

1. Social or Interpersonal

Discuss, exchange ideas, and build relationships

David Rock suggests creating your own “dopamine-rich salons,” – events you create to “connect socially and have complex, rich positive conversations with a mix of people you know and some you don’t.”

Try collaborating by working with someone who has complementary skills: if you’re a big picture person, find someone detail-oriented; if you’re spatially oriented, find someone lyrical. New insights will catch jet-streams.

Invite someone from another culture to your home. When you invite someone into your home, you open your heart as well and you open new understandings together.

2. Musical

Attend concerts, play an instrument, hum melodies, sing with others, enjoy rhythms

I used to play trombone in high school. Wonder what would happen if I bought another and played trombone second time around? Maybe you have played an instrument in the past that is now dusty. Try it and see what it might do to rejuvenate improvisation in other areas! Those who play musical instruments are better at associative thinking, according to Carla Florin in Psychology Today. So dust off your old guitar.

Why not move your body to music since music moves your brain waves.

Karaoke – a simple mike and background music can stir your sense of melody and lift your heart in joy. Meanwhile your brain anticipates songs on the CD and as you prepare to sing, “excitatory signals passed from the prefrontal cortex to the premotor cortex, preparing the body to act – perhaps to move or to sing.” What difference might this make to you? We have a lot of sequences that we need to store in order to predict what we should do. And that’s why playing an instrument, singing, dancing or even listening to music can help the brain transfer ideas in new ways.

Have you ever used music at work to jack up productivity or change your mood? Interestingly some rhythms induce enzymes in the brain and add amazing well being. Other tunes leave you punchy … and unable to focus. Has it happened to you?

3. Spatial

Paint, draw, design web pages, design rooms, make cards, create logos, map out routes, mind mapping

Why not participate in Pecha Kucha? Use Pecha Kucha presentations to stimulate your mind and challenge yourself. “Few things – except, perhaps, Apple computer products and Moleskine notebooks – have been embraced by designers of all stripes so quickly and universally as Pecha Kucha Night has.” Architect Magazine (US).

Want to try novel entries to spatial intelligence? See what works for you…

Capture an idea by creating a video. Camcorders are smaller and lighter and your video is easily edited and enhanced with user friendly software.

Take a course in architecture at a local college and see how hidden design skills begin to surface.

What about new colors in your surroundings. Color your surroundings blue – whether cubicle or office since blue’s a color that boosts creativity. See what difference it makes. Interestingly, there’s a switchboard in the brain that helps us learn and remember simultaneously.

4. Bodily-Kinesthetic

Play sports, enjoy movement, walk on tours, notice body language

I enjoy golf, brisk walks and hiking as a way to get daily exercise. But these can get to be routine so I’d like to punctuate these with something new and fresh, like Wii MotionPlus Grand Slam Tennis, or Tiger Woods PGA Tour.

Or swim regularly, play basketball in the gym, surf to ride the waves, or do pilates to get your heart beating fast.

A new study confirms that exercise can reverse the age-related decline in the production of neural stem cells in the hippocampus of the mouse brain, and suggests that this happens because exercise restores a brain chemical which promotes the production and maturation of new stem cells.

5. Logical-Mathematical

Solve problems, balance checkbooks, create schedules, budget money

Ever try using numbers as a way to look at another topic? Joanna Young tried using the number 9 as the number of writing strategies she shared with readers to show how different ways of writing change things. Using numbers actually changed the way Joanna wrote. Using number 9 as a goal to write to “can shift things for us, inside, according to Joanna, by “opening up a sense of creativity, playfulness, the freedom to dream dreams and explore what’s possible.” Earlier, Joanna wrote, 7 Ways to Write With Numbered Lists.

Music is actually based on number patterns. How many “friends” have you made through social media connections? The more genuine connections you have, the more “social capital” you have. You begin to see ways the brain on numbers helps us understand other topics.

Analysis, predictions and real-world manipulation of models helps foster creative problem solving.

6. Intrapersonal

Keep a personal journal, read alone, meditate, study to answer personal questions

Some call Intrapersonal intelligence learned common sense, Dr. Ellen Weber finds, because you intuitively cultivate values and learn from teachable moments. Whatever it’s named, do you intrapersonally inspire others to renew ethically with the brain in mind?

To stimulate Intrapersonal intelligence creatively, write a letter to an expert on something you wonder about. Or challenge yourself to develop and present strategies to accomplish a learning task for an audience you would not ordinarily consider working with. Help yourself conquer a problem by reading a self-help book and keeping a diary of your accomplishment in that area. Reward yourself when you feel you have accomplished your goal. As you do these activities, you build more dendrite brain cells for intrapersonal intelligence. Your brain literally rewires at night as you sleep based on what you do in the day.

7. Naturalistic

Collect specimens, garden, follow animal footprints, photograph landscapes

Have you ever been stuck for new ideas as you sit at your desk? The familiarity of your office or cubicle might stifle creative thinking. How so? The basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores routines and patterns based on daily activities, is not the best well-spring of creativity.

Even though your imagination can take flight as you sit at that desk, unfortunately familiarity can slow you down. What can you do then when you’re at your desk and no new ideas come your way? Here’s a suggestion – tap into your naturalistic intelligence.

As I garden, I find a peace and a closeness to the earth. It releases tensions… new ideas pop into my mind. In what ways does nature make a difference to you?

Listening to my grandsons as we walk in the woods shows me new perspectives as I see the natural world through their eyes.

Bring the natural world into your workspace since nature nurtures the mind. Nature helps stir insights and connections, too.

Take off your shoes and go barefoot to waken sensory awareness!

8. Verbal-Linguistic

Tell stories, write essays, participate in interviews, converse easily with peers

If you edit as you write, you can stop the flow of ideas. To enhance flow, avoid editing as you write.

Reading helps you think of new possibilities. I find this to be true as I read others’ blogs. How about you? Unleash your brain’s thinking box by reading.

Just by thinking of a metaphor, ideas stir new ideas in my mind. Metaphors can make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. Here are just a few ways…

Using more of your multiple intelligences – especially those outside your comfort zone – helps you stretch your brain in new ways. Bear in mind that you’ll be using your working memory, which can cause you discomfort at first. Test it out to see if novel experiences help you see new associations as you reach for creative ideas or solutions to problems.

Jumpstart Your Creativity

The right tools harness the power of your creativity. Your brain thrives on organization so these tips based on brain research can unleash invention, as well as expand and preserve it. According to Robert Epstein, “there are ‘four core competencies’ of creative expression:”

  • Capturing – preserve your new ideas
  • Surrounding – surround yourself with interesting people and things
  • Challenging – tackle tough problems
  • Broadening – expand your knowledge

Start with your curiosity… and enjoy the journey!

Interestingly, creativity’s not only Big A for arts, but also tackling anything you do in a creative way, from organizing your desk to cooking, housecleaning and hobbies. Inventive people share tendencies of open-mindedness, persistence, intrinsic motivation, positive outlook and curiosity.

Step outside your comfort zones and you’ll discover new sources of creativity in your amazing brain.

How Do You Use Your Multiple Intelligences?

Which of your multiple intelligences are you most/least comfortable using?

Have you ever experimented with using a neglected type of intelligence? What did you learn?

About the Author: Dr. Robyn McMaster is Sr. VP of the MITA International Brain Center and author of Brain Based Biz


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Responses to this Post


  1. When I’m very busy, I sometimes find myself feeling “off” – then I realize I haven’t been listening to enough music. I seem to need it to stay mentally balanced. Which is not to imply I’m unbalanced otherwise 🙂

    As an introvert, though, I find it more difficult to be creative with other people. I can help them brainstorm, but I usually need solitude to come up with ideas for my own work.

    I’m looking forward to reading how other people spark their creativity. Brain science and creativity always makes for an interesting read, thanks, Robyn.

  2. I’ve long been interested in the study of creativity – i.e. How to be creative, but I’m reading a book right now that has me thinking in a slightly different direction. The book is called “Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work” by Matthew B. Crawford. Here’s a quote from page 82:

    “I believe the mechanical arts have a special significance for our time because they cultivate not creativity, but the less glamorous virtue of attentiveness. Things need fixing and tending no less than creating.”

    Perhaps, instead of us all trying to continually jump-start our creativity, we could focus more on attentiveness, fixing and tending. These activities give us the practical basis to put our creative ideas into motion.

  3. Thanks for your feedback, Stacy. Some of the latest brain research findings show that we need to push past comfort zones to find novelty. It seemed logical, by taking the approach of looking at new possibilities for each of the multiple intelligences, it would be a jump off point.

    You remark that music helps keep you “mentally balanced.” It can work to benefit us in so many ways. It can literally help change a mood, it can bring vigor to exercise, it can help bring more focus as we write an essay, it can enhance a spiritual experience. What might you add to this from your experience, Stacy?

    What would bring novelty to the routine you mention here so that you experience a perspective you might not otherwise enjoy?

  4. I so agree, Stacy, that innovation can arise from attentiveness. For instance, I just read a post about the person who got tired of trying to get ketchup to come out of the bottle, so simply took a new approach – establish the upside down as right side up. And so voila the ketchup bottle was redesigned. It was attentiveness and taking a fresh look at an old problem.

    It takes many kinds of approaches to kindle the creative spark to fit the context. One size doesn’t fit all. Thoughts?

  5. very good info here.
    i like how it is concise, but with some great examples.
    these are areas of our life and ways of expressing that we all need to do to be balanced and feel our life is enriched.

  6. To answer your question, Robyn, listening to music is much like making art – if I don’t do it, I notice something is missing. I was talking to a painter who feels the same way. He said when he tends to the business side of his practice, there’s a point where he knows he needs to get back into the studio. The pull is so strong it is nearly a physical sensation.

    When I really need to get into a good groove for working, I listen to Bombay Dub Orchestra. Not to everyone’s taste, but I enjoy it.

    Mary, I like your comments on fixing and tending. It ties in with my own need to balance mental work with making. Mind/body, left brain/right brain all need attention.

    What would bring novelty? Finding myself with nothing to do (as she dashed off for a woodland walk with her dogs).

  7. One method I’ve used to help expand my thinking is to take everyday objects and use them in ways they weren’t originally intended. The more unexpected the way in which I repurpose them, the more fun I have with this.

    Also, to change up my environment and inspire fresh thinking, whenever I’m decorating a new home, I never use the art or furnishings in the same way or same configuration as they were used in the previous home. It’s a cost-effective way of making everything new again and rediscovering new beauty in the old and familiar.

    Linda M. Lopeke

  8. Hi Michele, I was hoping to introduce some new strategies in each area to bring in some novelty. I’m glad you found the examples helpful. Let’s keep looking for more. 😉

  9. Stacy, when you take your dog for a walk, your brains works in the background. And, you never know when you’ll have an “aha.” Keep the music rolling since it works so well for you. Thanks so much for following up!

  10. Linda, I love the way you “play around” with objects and use them in ways they weren’t originally intended. You are making the most of your spatial intelligence!

    Interior design must bring you constant stimulation. 🙂

  11. Thank you for explaining Gardner’s list on MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES in such an understandable fashion for public view. Recently there has been talk that he has added another to his list called EXISTENTIAL intelligence–notably, “Why are we here?”, “What is the reason for my life?”, etc. At any rate, is it possible that each separate category has its own trigger for creativity? Also, I suspect that the human brain is so very complex that we are still unable to delineate the precise mechanisms that are alive/at work/evolving to change the individual nature of creative process over the course of time as in the case of some artists like Van Gogh or Picasso. Something is happening with memory and experiences. How fortunate we are to be human and alive!

  12. Indeed, how fortunate we are to be alive and creative, Norma. I enjoy approaching creative pursuits through possibilities of several intelligences since that gives me options to play with ideas.

    The existential is indeed an dynamic part of our intelligences and Gardner decided that he did not have enough of the criteria he designated to name it as a separate intelligence. So it is contained within the realm of the intrapersonal intelligence. He discusses this in his book, “Intelligence Reframed.” Our spiritual nature is part of our motivation to be creators. Thanks for your very thoughtful response.

  13. I found this post tucked away in my Instapaper unread list! Great post! As a visual artist and graphic designer I definitely have spatial intelligence covered. Music is pretty important, too. I’ve noticed I tend to work better when I listen to music that’s either “wall of sound” or electronica such as Daft Punk, something without many words and that gets me in a groove.

    • Brad, glad you dug into your unread list. You give me inspiration to look through mine! As I am writing I especially enjoy listening to the intricacies of Bach. Somehow it creates a flow like nothing else for me. The great think about music is that you can select the type that works best for you. Hum-m-m-m. I wonder what my results would be if I gave Daft Punk a try! Sometimes it’s amazing what happens when we mix things up a bit and avoid going with the tried and true for us. What do you think?

      • I have a friend who is a web developer, and he absolutely CANNOT listen to music with words when he is writing code. Classical music is best for him. It gets him in the zone. If there are words, he’ll start singing, and then he’ll start writing the words into the code. Whoops!

        I’m all for mixing things up, though. It helps when you’ve hit a dead end. Even if the change is one small variable, such as moving to a different part of the room, or even your posture.

  14. I cannot sing words either, Brad. I can see why this occurs since we are requiring our brain to multi-task and the human brain tends to focus on one thing at a time. The words tend to require more of the brain than does music without words. Just think of the fact that research shows that people are unable to text and concentrate on driving all at once.

    In addition to the change of a small variable, I have found that problems in the back burner of my mind often cook if I stop what I’m doing when I hit that wall and do a routine task such as vacuuming.

    You might be interested in a recent post on Brain Based Biz about divergent thinking, which brings yet another element to creativity.

  15. HANS RAJ says:

    i am interested in the field of creativity. thanks for giving new directional material for reserch in the field of creativity and creative iintelligence.