Multiple Intelligences Spatial Intelligence

Philip Kelley
Multiple Intelligences Spatial Intelligence

Spatial Intelligence is one of the most complex to write about. Different authors have contributed their points of view and the results of their research. It is an intelligence that ranges from a game of chess, parking a car, playing soccer, sculpting a figure and many more tasks.

This Intelligence is found within Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Without a doubt, a revolutionary theory about the concept of intelligence that we have seen in previous articles. For example, in the article "Multiple Intelligences: Naturalistic Intelligence".


  • Spatial intelligence
    • Some examples
  • Characteristics of people with high spatial intelligence
    • How to know if a child has more developed this type of intelligence?
  • Spatial Intelligence and Brain
    • Lobes and Brain
  • We play awhile?
  • Development of Spatial Intelligence
    • Decentration and Abstract Spaces
  • Spatial Capabilities
    • Topological Capabilities
    • Euclidean and Projective Capabilities
  • Space Exercise
  • Bibliography

Spatial intelligence

Spatial Intelligence is also known as visuospatial. It is defined as the ability to view certain actions before executing them. In this way we create figures and geometric shapes in space. Howard Gardner (1998) defines it as "the ability to accurately perceive objects in the visual world, transform and modify perceptions and recreate visual experiences in the absence of physical stimuli".

Armstrong (2008), defines this intelligence as: "the ability to correctly perceive the spatial-visual world and carry out transformations on those perceptions. This intelligence implies sensitivity to color, lines, shapes, space and the relationships that exist between these elements ". The author also states that "it includes the ability to visualize, geographically represent visual or spatial ideas and orient oneself appropriately in the spatial matrix".

Some examples

How many times have we stopped in front of an online parking lot and we have thought if the car fits? At that point we start to mentally measure the size of the car to see if it fits into the gap. For a few seconds we imagine ourselves parking the car and calculating whether or not it fits to try or find another place.

Another example in which we can all recognize ourselves is when we visit a furniture store. At that moment we began to decorate our house without knowing the exact measurements. "I think this piece of furniture would look good here, it would fit between the sofa and the TV." In our mind we are producing a mental representation of the room and fitting different pieces.

One of the characteristics of soccer players is their ability to anticipate circumstances on the pitch. That is, when a player handles the ball, he is able to predict an advanced position of another teammate. If his partner is running to the other end of the field, the player knows that he has to pass the ball several meters in front of him so that player and ball coincide. So spatial intelligence would be present in many of them.

People with this type of intelligence have the ability to perceive the world in three-dimensional images. This ability allows them to mentally represent objects and spaces, and in this way they recognize the same object in different circumstances. This allows them to anticipate the consequences of changes in space..

Characteristics of people with high spatial intelligence

We can observe this type of intelligence in artists, engineers, architects, surgeons, mathematicians, mechanics, and even in those who daydream. When we go on a trip we usually make a mental map of the route or when we want to reorganize our room we make a mental map. In these two circumstances we are making use of this type of intelligence.

"An intelligence is a biopsychological potential that should not be confused with a domain of knowledge, which is a socially constructed capacity." -Howard Gardner-

How to know if a child has more developed this type of intelligence?

Observing their behavior. They generally love to draw. Artistic expression becomes his way of seeing and interpreting the world. They can also build replicas of three-dimensional spaces and objects. An example of this are children who are passionate about lego, plasticine, clay, etc..

They like picture books better than those filled with only letters. The mazes and maps catch their attention. Puzzles are also his forte. The "Rubik's cube" would be an example. The imagination is high in them and thanks to it they invent and discover the operation of complex mechanisms.

Their learning is enhanced if it is through observation and sight. They recognize objects with ease. They tend to have a good sense of direction. Mental images are a resource for remembering and retaining information. They usually have some ability to decode maps, graphs and diagrams. They can see objects from other perspectives. Abstract and representative design dominate.

Spatial Intelligence and Brain

Different researchers and also Gardner (1993), determined that the left hemisphere predominates over language in most right-handed people and in the right hemisphere spatial functions predominate.

The right hemisphere is in charge of receiving, identifying and processing visuospatial information. It gathers all the types of information that it receives through the sensory pathways and transmits them as a whole. Elaborates the immediate responses that are required in spatial orientation and visual processes.

It has been found to be the core of spatial calculus. For example, in those people with damage to the right rear area, they would have impaired orientation ability as well as recognition of faces, places and scenes.

Spatial intelligence is related to visualization, but this does not mean that it is directly related to sight. Someone who is blind or has severe visual problems, could recognize objects and shapes through the sense of touch. The sense of touch will be comparable to that of sight for those with visual problems.

Lobes and Brain

The brain is divided into four lobes: frontal, temporal, occipital, and parietal. The latter is the most important in visuospatial intelligence. It processes sensory and spatial calculation information in the manipulation and movement of objects. It also associates numbers and their relationships. Spatial skills such as location in space, map reading, and tasks with spatial components are associated with the parietal lobe..

Other research sheds light on spatial intelligence in the brain. They looked at brain function in primates. They found that lower temporal neurons participate in encoding the physical attributes of visual stimuli. Apparently its function could be to integrate depth, color, size and shape information by recording this information in the pre-striated cortices..

We play awhile?

We are going to propose two very simple tests on Spatial Intelligence.

Which of the 4 images on the right is the same as the reference image on the left?

Let's complicate it a bit more, which of the 4 images is the same as the reference image on the left? At the end of the article we will propose an even more complicated spatial task. Will you be prepared?

Test your intelligence for free at

Development of Spatial Intelligence

The development of this intelligence is studied by different authors, however, it is still being investigated. In this article we will highlight the research of Jean Piaget, who shed light on this ability. For Piaget, special intelligence is part of the logical growth of the child. The author proposes four stages:

  1. Sensorimotor period. At this stage (from birth to years and a half and two years) the child begins his relationship with objects. Piaget assures us that "in this way we arrive at a practical and immediate space that is constructed by each of the senses on the basis of the different motor activities". The child has as many spaces as there are senses. Little by little all the perceptions are united into one and a proper idea of ​​space is formed centered on the subject itself. In this stage there are three situations: the notion of object is built, experiences of the different sensory fields and discovery of the nearby space.
  2. Pre-operational period. Period ranging from 2 to 7 years. An intuitive idea of ​​space and a static mental image develop. The child can coordinate the images with each other and can achieve simple transformations, but is not able to achieve a structure as a whole. According to Piaget, there are five important aspects at this stage: a topological spatial representation is acquired (his interest is focused on open or closed figures and situations inside and outside); projective representation is not given and perspective is not understood; over 4-5 years they capture the Euclidean forms but do not retain length, surface or distance; there is no conservation of representation and finally the child's reasoning is given about current situations.
  3. Specific operational period. Little by little it becomes detached from perception although it continues to depend on motor, real or represented acts. It is a period between 7-12 years.
  4. Formal operational period. The domain of projective relationships is reached, as well as Euclidean ones in the operative field. This allows them to coordinate various metric perspectives such as length, area, and volume..

"Space is constituted by that expression projected from the body, and in all directions, to infinity." -Piaget-

Decentration and Abstract Spaces

Piaget also introduces the concept of decentration. This occurs at the beginning of the school stage and is about the child's ability to indicate how someone sitting in another part of a room would see a scene or how an object would look if it were turned over. When you enter adolescence, you are already able to handle the idea of ​​abstract spaces or formal rules that govern the space..

Spatial Capabilities

Topological Capabilities

  • Enclosure. Distinguish closed spaces from partially closed spaces in two or three dimensions.
  • Separation. Ability to deal with part-whole relationships and includes illustration-environment differentiation. Ability to divide and reconstruct a whole in its original arrangement (for example, a puzzle). Use of different parts to make "all" comparable (for example, use large stones to make a wall as it has been carried out with small pieces). Consider the "whole" as something arbitrary and dependent on immediate demands (for example, a room can be considered as a whole and the chair as a part; or the chair as a whole and the backrest as a part).
  • Proximity. Ability to make distance judgments. Ability to move the body in space. Criteria for moving related objects.
  • Order (Spatial Succession). Ability to maintain consistent direction and sequencing when playing a linear arrangement of five or more objects. As well as to arrange objects in exact linear arrangement, extended or tight or in a reverse order to the original from a different orientation.
  • Continuity. Ability to perceive space as something continuous. Ability to see that an indirect path can lead to the same point as a straight line. Take detours to reach a goal. Development of alternative routes to reach a goal.

Euclidean and Projective Capabilities

  • Quantification of the distance. Ability to measure through repeated use of a unit of measure.
  • Address quantification. Ability to focus on degrees of change and similarity in direction.
  • Points of view. Recognize differences in points of view from different positions in space. Coordination of capabilities to quantify distances and directions.

Space Exercise

As we have seen, Spatial Intelligence is of the utmost importance to function in our day-to-day life. However, we want to challenge you. Those who know how to play chess will have it somewhat easier. Those who do not know, must learn, everything is putting! The complex spatial exercise that we want to propose is… play a game of memory chess! Cases have been seen of two players who have been able to play a game without a board, using a three-dimensional mental representation of the game. Surprising, right? Do you dare?


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    leadership. Barcelona. Paidós.
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    XXI century. Barcelona. Paidós.
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  • PIAGET J. & INHELDER B. (1975). Genesis of the Elemental Logical Structures. Guadalupe, Buenos Aires.

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