Do You Know What Intrapersonal Intelligence Is and Why It's So Helpful?

Do You Know What Intrapersonal Intelligence Is and Why It's So Helpful?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Diving deep into your thoughts and practicing introspection is part of what Howard Gardner defined as intrapersonal intelligence. These skills of self-reflection and metacognition are fundamental to living in peace with yourself.

Having an accurate, real image of ourselves is not easy. First of all, it takes being fully aware of our moods; combining good self-esteem with discipline and self-motivation; and balancing the sum of these three elements with a special problem-solving ability.

Intrapersonal intelligence is part of the revolutionary theory of multiple intelligences that Howard Gardner came up with in the 80’s. It is most well-known from his book, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”. His approach, as we know, was controversial, both in the academic world and among education professionals.

It was meant to serve as a counterweight to the traditional idea of a single measure of intelligence. In other words, the idea was to be an alternative to reductionism and standardized tests that are so limited. Living well takes many other types of skills related to how we learn, interact and think.

While many scientific psychologists, like Robert J. Sternberg, warn that there’s no scientific evidence for Gardner’s approach and that what he calls intelligences are actually “aptitudes” or “abilities”, we cannot ignore how positive the impact of his theory has been.

Intrapersonal intelligence is the seventh of the nine intelligences and, without a doubt, one of the most important.


A girl in a floating boat.

Intrapersonal intelligence, or the ability to look inward

We could give many examples of people with high intrapersonal intelligence. Virgina Woolf, for example, gives us in her essay “A Sketch of the Past” a clear picture looking inward. Another example of stark introspection is seen in Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” Here, Gregor Samsa, a commercial traveler, awakens to find himself transformed into an insect.

In addition, Albert Einstein himself constantly worked on his intrapersonal intelligence, almost without knowing it. He was a great lover of long walks, where he explored his thoughts and connected with himself — in relation to his mathematical theories, the cosmos and the way the universe works.

Therefore, we could conclude that such skillful thinking is almost an innate capacity in writers, poets or scientists. If this is so, it’s because they are independent people who enjoy solitude and are creative.

Next, let’s see below what basic features define people with high intrapersonal intelligence.

A girl on a seahorse.


What does a person with intrapersonal intelligence look like?

Here’s a simple example. Mark is 17 years old and just got home from high school. It has not been a good day. He doesn’t say hi to anyone and locks himself in his room with a loud bang. Then, he starts playing video games and later starts posting aggressive posts on social media. They talk about how much he hates the world and the people who live in it.

Mark needs good tools to help him develop intrapersonal intelligence. What he needs is to manage his emotions and self-regulate. So, we could summarize people with high intrapersonal intelligence like this:


  • First of all, they are skilled in self-regulation and metacognition.
  • Introspection, the deliberate act of looking inward in order to better understand the nature of one’s thoughts or feelings, is key.
  • They are good at managing their emotions.
  • They are people who enjoy time alone, which they take advantage of to connect with themselves.
  • Assertiveness is a salient characteristic. That is, they know how to express their emotions and needs clearly while respecting others.
  • They have good self-discipline and self-control.
  • Good self-esteem.
  • They are aware of their own limitations and knowledge.
  • They analyze their actions, assess their impact and learn from their mistakes.
  • Finally, people with high intrapersonal intelligence are connected to the present.

We can all improve our intrapersonal intelligence

Intrapersonal intelligence is basically the ability to see realistically and honestly who we are and what we want. While it’s so basic, unfortunately we don’t always develop it very effectively. And although it should be taught in schools and institutes, there is a lot we can do ourselves to increase our intrapersonal IQ. Now take a look at these simple tips.

Intrapersonal intelligence


  • Keep a diary, write down your thoughts, feelings, memories… and go deep.
  • Practice meditation, go for a walk or run. These are great ways to connect with yourself.
  • Work on having a reflective attitude, not reactive.
  • Be critical of yourself, self-evaluate.
  • Learn to think better: organize your ideas, make cognitive maps, make the implicit explicit, compare, criticize, analyze, plan…
  • Observe your environment. Connect with it using all your senses and clarify how it makes you feel.
  • Unleash your creativity.
  • Manage your emotions better: name them, channel them, explore them…

To conclude, whether or not we support Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, there’s one aspect we can’t ignore. They give us the opportunity to experience life happier and more in peace with ourselves. Intrapersonal intelligence is one of the most valuable tools to have on the journey of life.



-Gardner, Howard (2008). Multiple intelligences. Barcelona: Paidós

-Gardner Howard (2011) Extraordinary Minds. Barcelona: Kaidós

-Gardner, Howard (1998). “A Reply to Perry D. Klein’s “Multiplying the Problems of Intelligence by Eight” Canadian Journal of Education 23 (1): 96-102.

Images courtesy of Lucy Campbell


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.