Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner and Operant Conditioning (B.F. Skinner)- A Comparison by Sarah Martin

Comparative of Theories***

Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences:
Howard Gardner challenged the idea that intelligence was just for those that were what he called linguistic and logical mathematical thinkers. He theorized that just those two types of thinkers offered a limited definition of what being intelligent was. His theory recognized that different types of thinkers exist and being strong in other areas also was intelligence. The types of intelligences he defined in his theory were; verbal linguistic, logical mathematical, spatial visual, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and added later were naturalistic and existential.

B.F. Skinner's Operant Conditioning:
Skinner's background in behavior conditioning led him to research where he theorized that behavior can be changed by the use of reinforcement. His theory was based on three operants- or responses that behaviors follow. "Neutral operants: responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated. Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.
Punishers: Responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior." (retrieved from


Gardner's theory has impacted education by helping educators think about their learners and impacted classrooms through the crafting lessons and projects to help build confidence and growth in different intelligences. Skinner's theory on the other hand has impacted education more in the ways of classroom management and motivation. Both theories combined together can create a learning environment with motivation, creativity and appreciation for the different talents and skills that students posses. Helping to build communities of learners that push eachother to grow and see the importance of their individuality.

howard_gardner_theory_multiple_intelligences.pdf )

Viadero, D. (2003). Staying Power. Education Week, 22(39), 24