Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Intrapersonal Intelligence: A Sign of Genius?

     Due to my busy schedule, I manage to only get as much as halfway of my reading of the book Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century by Colin Rose and Malcolm J. Nicholl. I must say that I really, really like the book and intend on finding out more about Accelerated Learning. However, I am not going to write about the book or Accelerated Learning in this post. I just want to share something that I have read from the book that I think is very interesting.
     Along with various interesting facts, explanations, ideas and information on learning techniques, the book touches a lot on Howard Gardner's famous Theory of Multiple Intelligence. It is when I come to Rose and Nicholl's presentation on the Intrapersonal Intelligence that I realize how much I like the book. I am quite familiar with the Theory of Multiple Intelligence because I have taken the liberty to do a lot of reading on it when I was still in college, but Rose and Nicholl inspire me to look at Gardner's theory from a whole new perspective.
     Intrapersonal Intelligence, often referred to as 'self smart', is often associated with an individual's ability to introspect and self-reflect. It is the ability to recognize one's own strengths and weaknesses, and the strong inner willingness to improve oneself. I tend to associate this type of intelligence with individuals who like to keep a journal or a diary, who likes to ponder about life and philosophize. This, of course, is a widely known information. What I do not realize is that a remarkable number of successful men and women throughout the century, the geniuses of all time, kept diaries and journals and wrote detailed letters to their family and friends - clear indicators of strong intrapersonal intelligence.

     Rose and Nicholl relates how the researcher Catherine Cox conducted a study in 1920 on 300 geniuses from history and noted that what these great men and women had in common was "a predilection for eloquently recording thoughts and feelings in diaries, poems, and letters to friends and families". Cox discovered that "starting from an early age this was a discipline that the 'greats' continued throughout their lives". Just think of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous multidimensional, voluminous notebooks filled with sketches and diagrams as well as his thoughts and ideas, and you will get what Cox was talking about. This 'predilection' for keeping diaries or journals and writing poems or letters is what other geniuses like Thomas Alva Edison, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson and Johann Sebastian Bach had in common with each other.
     I have encouraged some of my good students to keep a journal before, but only with the purpose of indirectly letting them practise writing in English. As far as I can remember, I never made any conscious effort to reinforce any kinds of thinking skills or develop the intrapersonal intelligence through this activity. Whether polishing their intrapersonal intelligence can contribute towards their learning ability in general is yet to be seen, but I really like the way the book wraps the subject up:
     Researcher Dr. Win Wenger poses an interesting question: "Why did these gifted men and women start keeping diaries in the first place? Was it because they knew that they would someday be famous and wanted to leave behind a record for future historians? Was their writing simply an irrelevant by-product of a highly expressive mind - or a highly inflated ego? Or was the scribbling, in and of itself, a mechanism by which people who were not born geniuses unconsciously nurtured and activated a superior intellect?"
    Wenger favours the last interpretation and it is certainly worth thinking about!
(Rose and Nicholl, 1997, pp 125 - 126)

     I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,
     As watchman to my heart.
     (William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)

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