This is one of the less tangible areas of Multiple Intelligence, a theory presented by Howard Gardner that proposes eight areas of intelligence rather than just one. Last week, I introduced the Visual/Spatial area. This week, I will talk a bit about the Interpersonal area.
Per Gardner, Interpersonal refers to “accurately determining moods, feelings and other mental states…in others and using the information as a guide for behavior” (Gardner, Exploring Intelligence, p.22). In other words, Interpersonal refers to the ability to “read a room,” a person, or a situation and respond accordingly. This includes reading social cues from someone who is talking to you, recognizing when someone is upset, or knowing how to respond if someone starts to cry.
With autism, this is usually one of the main areas that many therapeutic approaches work on. A vast majority of human communication is non-verbal, and being unable to translate or decode those signals can put one at a substantial disadvantage in many areas of their lives (career, relationships, etc.).
Those who are high in Interpersonal intelligence work well in careers that involve communication and working with people regularly: therapists, social workers, politicians, and religious leaders all far into this domain. This is also one of the domains that can easily be carried over into other domains.
One of the more interesting aspects of the research I did for this post is how often the frontal lobe of the brain is mentioned. This area is seen as the “heart” of the Interpersonal domain, and if it is damaged or does not develop properly, it could lead to difficulties in the area of social skills. There have been many documented cases of individuals being social and personable people until a frontal lobe injury leads to a complete change in personality. This alone can lead to a lengthy discussion, especially when it comes to autism, but I think I’ll leave that for another day.
Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.
Teaching Students with high Interpersonal Intelligence This is a nice article on how teachers can foster Interpersonal Intelligence in students, particularly those who seem to already have a knack for it.
Interpersonal Intelligence/Social Skills: Wikipedia The autism factor is briefly explored in this entry
Photo from socialpronow.com