Three Important Forms of Intelligence and Their Influence on Your Performance

Three Forms of Intelligence and Their Influence on Your Performance

When students are asked about the outcome they may expect to receive upon completion of a degree program, they often talk about the knowledge they’ll acquire, the specialization obtained for a new job or career, improved skill sets, and many conclude by saying that they will become “smarter”.

While the concept of “getting smarter” in school is often equated to a letter grade, it can be better understood from the perspective of intelligence. However, students often believe that they would have to score a high IQ to be considered “smart” enough – either as a student or an employee.

Intelligence is an elusive quality to describe because students don’t spend time specifically thinking about how they can improve their intelligence or what it really requires to become smarter. Many believe that you are either born smart or you aren’t, and maybe through luck or hard work you can eventually improve your lot in life.

There have been many theories about intelligence to emerge and each model has presented various types that help explain to educators (and students) how they have control over their mental capacity. The three most important forms of intelligence that students need to be aware of are Emotional Intelligence, Moral Intelligence, and Body Intelligence. These intelligences are mental functions that can be developed through conscious effort and practice by any student.


Dr. C. George Boeree developed a well-articulated definition of intelligence and IQ: “Intelligence is a person’s capacity to (1) acquire knowledge (i.e. learn and understand), (2) apply knowledge (solve problems), and (3) engage in abstract reasoning. It is the power of one’s intellect, and as such is clearly a very important aspect of one’s overall well-being. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is the score you get on an intelligence test.” What’s meaningful about this view is that it is a reminder that intelligence is not something that students had to be born with and through their effort they can work to improve it.

A belief about intelligence that trips students up was highlighted in a Wall Street Journal article, Flummoxed by Failure””or Focused?. It has been long believed that “intelligence largely determines how well you do in school and in life.” I’ve witnessed this with students who continue to struggle and when I address their progress it is easy for them to fall back on a belief that they are “not smart enough” – as if their progress is directly related to their competence and is an indicator of their intelligence. One reason why intelligence is considered a determinant of success is due to the prevalence of IQ tests, which are viewed as “the single most effective predictor known of individual performance at school and on the job.” An IQ test is supposed to provide a measurement of a person’s ability for logical reasoning.

Many educators have rejected the idea that one definition of mental capacity or intellect is applicable to all students. In the 1980s there were two theories to emerge that have been influential in the field of education. Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor and psychologist, developed the Multiple Intelligences Theory that identified seven forms: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Dr. Robert J. Sternberg, a cognitive psychologist, further defined “intelligence as mental activity central to one’s life in real-world environments.” This lead to his Theory of Successful Intelligence that is comprised of three types: analytical (componential); practical (contextual) and creative (experiential).

In a Forbes article, Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need To Succeed, associate professor Keld Jensen made an important point that “by itself, a high IQ does not guarantee you will stand out and rise above everyone else. Your IQ score pales in comparison with your EQ, MQ, and BQ scores when it comes to predicting your success and professional achievement.” The reason why emotional, moral, and body intelligences have an impact on students’ performance is that it takes the concept of intellect and makes is accessible, something they have direct control over. It also indicates that the learning process produces long-term benefits, which can be just as important as the knowledge and skills acquired.

EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

Jensen described emotional intelligence as “being aware of your own feelings and those of others, regulating these feelings in yourself and others, using emotions that are appropriate to the situation, self-motivation, and building relationships.” Daniel Goleman is a thought-leader in the field of emotional intelligence and in his article, The Value of Emotional Intelligence, he identified “four components that will turn struggling students into more successful ones.” This includes emotional self-awareness, emotional self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, which are the most important aspects of becoming emotionally intelligent.

The first step to development of this intelligence is to recognize and transform reactive and emotional responses into informed and logical decisions. For example, if you receive feedback for an assignment and the final grade was not what you expected, do you react emotionally and get upset or do you review it and identify how you can improve your performance? Through self-awareness, students learn to recognize their feelings and the impact of those feelings on decisions made or actions taken.

MQ (Moral Intelligence)

In my post, Digital Citizenship Basics for College Students, I described morals as the basis for making a determination of right and wrong. It also represents an ability to make decisions that benefit not only yourself, but others around you (Coles, 1997; Hass, 1998). Keld Jensen included integrity, responsibility, sympathy, and forgiveness as key components of moral intelligence, along with “keeping commitments, maintaining your integrity, and being honest are crucial to moral intelligence.” You decide if an issue is morally right or wrong, based upon your belief system and what you have been taught, which includes family, society, or religious affiliations.

Developing moral intelligence is also referred to as having a well-defined internal compass. Educators Mike S. Ribble and Dr. Gerald D. Bailey indicated that “true north tells us when we are going in the right direction and when we are going in some other direction.” It is often equated to ethics or standards that guide our behavior and interactions with others. For example, every school has a set of behavioral standards that students are to adhere to while interacting with others. Students either act ethically or unethically, which means following or disregarding the school’s standards.

BQ (Body Intelligence)

Keld Jensen summed up body intelligence as “what you know about your body, how you feel about it, and take care of it.” It is important to pay attention to the signals provided by your body and as you develop this awareness you also learn to take action. For many students it is a matter of increasing their level of physical fitness and they usually discover there are long-term benefits associated with maintaining their physical well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the inclusion of physical activities “helps keep your brain sharp and boost the production of new brain cells, improving your focus and concentration.”

John J. Ratey, M.D., clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explained that improved brain functioning (as a result of physical well-being) is “an important function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and produces a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses.” Ratey noted that it is an essential skill for “high performance in intellectually demanding jobs.” This is relevant to students as academic work also requires the development and use of strong intellectual skills. When you have a strong sense of body intelligence you are highly aware of and responsive to your body’s needs.

Becoming more intelligent is an outcome you will likely experience as a result of completing your school work. The standard definition of intelligence as a result of the acquisition of knowledge and the use of logic and reasoning is still relevant because students are encouraged to utilize critical thinking and analysis in their school work. But the development of your intelligence doesn’t end there as you have other important intelligences you can draw upon to improve your performance. As you establish goals for your academic growth plan, why not add EQ, MQ, and BQ to the list?

You can follow Dr. Bruce A. Johnson on Twitter @DrBruceJ and Google+.

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