Socrates, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Edmund Hillary and Joan of Arc are all renowned historical figures who shared the common characteristic of having highly developed intrapersonal intelligence skills. These highly self-aware individuals used their refined intuitive and analytic skills to great effect for the common good. Yet there are disadvantages of intrapersonal intelligence.
Howard Gardner's Theory
In 1983, Harvard University professor Howard Gardner proposed the "theory of multiple intelligences." Gardner's model broke with the academic tradition of intelligence being governed by a singular general ability and argued that intellect is composed of a wide variety of cognitive abilities weakly interlinked with one another. For example, a child who has difficulty with mathematical multiplication should not be considered less intelligent than a child who finds it easy. A child who encounters difficulties in the mathematical field could excel in the area of intrapersonal intelligence.
Intrapersonally intelligent people are intuitive and introspective. They have a keen sensitivity to their own and other's feelings, strengths, weaknesses, plans and goals. They have an enhanced ability for self-reflection, continual development, progression and achievement of goals. People with intrapersonal intelligence are suited to careers in philosophy, psychology, theology, the law and journalism.
People with intrapersonal intelligence are prone to self-reflection and analysis and are often perceived as daydreamers and being overly shy. Because they prefer working alone, they are also accused as being antisocial and at times can appear distant and aloof. They are very independent, which often translates, along with their fierce individuality, as arrogance. Their determination and persistent achievements often engenders resentment and jealously. As opposed to interpersonal intelligence, which denotes a love to learn about people, intrapersonal intelligence is marked by a love to learn about the self, often at the expense of neglecting the needs and wishes of others.
Socrates and the Curse of Intrapersonal Intelligence
The Socratic maxim "Know Thyself" is a key phrase for people with intrapersonal intelligence. One of the founders of Western philosophy, Socrates is a poster child for those who have cultivated their skills in this area. For Socrates the gift of intrapersonal intelligence was both a curse and a blessing. He is universally acclaimed for his contributions to the field of ethical behaviour, but by the same token his intrapersonal intelligence made him a notoriously outspoken social and moral critic of his time. In an era of great upheaval for ancient Greece and his native city of Athens, Socrates refused to uphold the status quo and mutely accept what he perceived as the immorality of his fellow man. Socrates was sentenced to death by the state for giving voice to the perceptions resulting from his intrapersonal intelligence. Plato later referred to Socrates as the "gadfly" of the state because the observations he made through intrapersonal intelligence stung the horse (a metaphor for Athenians) into action. The price Socrates paid for his intelligence was his life.