The spatial intelligence is one of nine types of cognitive abilities described in the theory of multiple intelligences of Howard Gardner. It has to do with the ability to understand the environment, mentally manipulate three-dimensional objects, and the ability to internally visualize all kinds of objects, spaces and situations.
According to Howard Gardner, spatial intelligence is the computational ability that provides the ability or mental capacity to solve spatial problems. Among them are all those that have to do with spatial navigation, the detection of subtle details, the visualization of objects from different perspectives, and the recognition of faces and scenes.
According to Gardner, each of the nine intelligences described in his theory would provide a series of abilities that would be closely related to success in certain areas and professions. Thus, people with spatial intelligence would have more skills to solve problems in areas that require investigation, logical reasoning, and an orientation towards objects rather than towards people.
On a professional level, people with high spatial skills and intelligence tend to end up in jobs where orientation and space management are especially important. Some of the professional opportunities that best fit this profile would be design, architecture, professional driving or piloting airplanes.
Spatial intelligence, also sometimes referred to as “visual intelligence,” was one of the nine cognitive abilities described by Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences. It is based mainly on the ability to process the information received through sight, and on the ability to mentally visualize all kinds of shapes, spaces and figures.
Visual or spatial intelligence includes a number of specialized skills, including the ability to visualize objects and rotate, manipulate, and transform them on a mental level. In addition, it has a lot to do with sectors such as photography, painting, graphic design and spatial orientation.
Traditionally, spatial intelligence has been left out of most educational programs, which focus more on areas such as logic, mathematics or verbal fluency. However, it is present in a multitude of daily tasks; and at the historical level, it is considered that it could have a great evolutionary importance.
According to some authors, this intelligence is closely related to the right side of the brain, which is responsible for emotions, creative thinking, and art. Historically, it had a lot to do with the first form of human expression, which before the appearance of writing and mathematics was carried out in a pictorial way.
How to develop this type of intelligence?
Some people are born highly skilled in spatial intelligence. From a young age, they are very good at thinking in a three-dimensional way, and they can easily complete tasks that require manipulating objects, drawing or art, or building and solving puzzles.
However, many individuals have problems with this area, and traditional education often neglects it, so tasks related to visual intelligence tend to be very difficult for them.
Fortunately, both in childhood and in adulthood it is possible to develop skills related to spatial intelligence if you work properly. Here are some of the best ways to improve this ability.
– Practice visualization techniques
Many of the people with a low level of visual intelligence have problems imagining images, structures and everything that has to do with this ability. Therefore, one of the most useful activities to improve this skill is the practice of visualization.
But what does this activity consist of? Visualization can be used in many different areas, ranging from relaxation techniques to goal setting. It can also be applied in the form of purely mental activities, such as solving puzzles or spatial problems in an imaginary way.
– Play chess
Chess has always been considered one of the best games to strengthen all kinds of cognitive abilities. However, one of the areas in which this activity stands out is precisely in the development of spatial intelligence.
During a chess game, the person has to have in his mind a spatial representation of the entire board and of all the movements that both he and his opponent could make. Therefore, continuous practice of this game and memorizing different strategies can improve visual intelligence significantly.
– Plastic arts practice
As we have already seen, spatial intelligence is closely related to all the arts that have a strong visual component, among which are sculpture, architecture, painting and photography. Therefore, people with a low level in this capacity will not normally have a great talent for these disciplines.
However, with sufficient training in any of these arts, an opposite effect can be achieved in such a way that the person increases not only their ability in the discipline they have chosen, but also their capacity for spatial intelligence.
– Use maps and visual aids
On many occasions, individuals with a low level of spatial intelligence look for alternatives that allow them to function in their daily life without having to think visually. As a consequence, their ability in this area diminishes even more over time.
To avoid this deterioration and strengthen spatial intelligence, one of the best options is to force yourself to think visually. For example, using diagrams and concept maps during study, moving around town or country with a map, and planning routes are all very beneficial activities that can help improve this cognitive ability.
What are people with spatial intelligence like?
When he created his theory of multiple intelligences, Howard Gardner had some difficulty finding examples of people with a high level of ability in the space domain. However, over time our knowledge on this aspect has developed, so today we do know what individuals with great strength in this field are like.
Normally, people with good spatial intelligence are able to detect subtle details in terms of colors and shapes that others do not seem to see. In addition, they can imagine any figure or situation, no matter how complex it is. Therefore, they tend to have a knack for areas such as geometry or puzzle solving.
As a consequence of their skill in this area, these people are often very interested in activities such as photography, painting and architecture. In general, in addition, they tend to have a great facility to create projects in these arts. Finally, they tend to have a spatial orientation well above average.
Within the theory of multiple intelligences, it is very common to mention people with a very high level within each of the nine cognitive abilities described by Gardner. Within the visual, individuals such as Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci or Vincent Van Gogh are often named .
However, also the great architects of our time, and people like fighter jet pilots or astronauts generally score very high in their level of spatial intelligence.
Recommended professions for these people
Gardner believed that, depending on the most outstanding intelligence of each individual, they would be more comfortable in a certain group of professions, in addition to having a greater facility to develop any of them than to dedicate themselves to a totally different field .
Thus, among the professional activities recommended for people with a high level of spatial or visual intelligence would be all those related to the plastic arts. Some of the most prominent could be painting, sculpture and photography; but also others such as graphic design or modeling for video games or animated films.
On the other hand, since visual intelligence also helps at the level of orientation in space, these people can stand out without much difficulty in professions such as taxi or bus driver, tour guide, trip organizer, plane pilot, driver stunt for movies, or even astronaut.
Finally, if the spatial intelligence is accompanied by a high level of logical ability, the person can also be very successful within the fields related to mathematics, such as engineering or architecture.
As we have already seen, spatial intelligence is one of the most neglected within the traditional educational system. Therefore, it is essential that both parents and teachers help children to foster this ability through specialized activities. Some of the best are as follows: