Existential intelligence examples

Five Characteristics of People With High Existential Intelligence

4 minutes

Existential intelligence invites us to question ourselves and the world around us. In fact, it opens our minds to the bigger picture.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Everyone is different. In fact, each one of us perceives, thinks, feels, and interprets the world in a different way. This is partly due to the type of intelligence predominant in each individual. However, we don’t seem to find too many people with high existential intelligence in the mundane, consumerist, and individualistic society we’re immersed in today. Nevertheless, those who do exist have certain features well worth mentioning.

Existential intelligence is also called spiritual, philosophical, or transcendental intelligence. It forms part of Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. According to Gardner, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the IQ as a measure for evaluating and understanding a human being, since there are other areas of great importance.

Linguistic, musical, spatial, or interpersonal skills, to name but a few, form part of an individual’s assets and determine their degree of intelligence. Initially, Gardner proposed seven kinds of intelligence. However, he later considered the inclusion of two more, one of which was existential intelligence.

What are people with high existential intelligence like?

We all exhibit each type of intelligence to a certain degree. However, people with high existential intelligence are usually characterized by the following:

1. They possess philosophical restlessness

One of their most characteristic features is that they’re concerned about philosophical and transcendental questions. For instance, where do we come from? Why are we alive? What lies beyond death?

These kinds of questions occupy their minds much of the time. Furthermore, they enjoy reading and learning about theological, existential, or spiritual issues.

2. They like to see the bigger picture

They’re able to go beyond the physical senses to explain themselves and understand the world around them.

In addition, they have a great ability to see the big picture in any situation. For this reason, they make good advisers, have the ability to solve problems and find solutions, and are usually good leaders.

3. They possess high values

They generally move away from traits such as selfishness or self-centeredness, violence, and conflict. In fact, they’re usually conciliatory, peaceful, respectful, and supportive individuals.

In addition, they tend to show great interest in the society around them and defend universal values such as kindness, love, peace, and brotherhood. Nevertheless, they can often feel alien and strange in their surroundings.

4. They practice an altruistic lifestyle

It’s common for people with high existential intelligence to show disinterest in certain habitual social practices such as consumerism and the normalized type of leisure in society today. On the contrary, they usually use their time to achieve an integral development of their own being.

They’re usually people who are extremely aware of the care of their own body, the environment, and others. They often carry out acts of service and altruism. Ultimately, they perceive union in everything around them.

5. They possess a sense of transcendence

These people are extremely curious. They also have a high capacity for abstraction. This constantly leads them to search for answers. In addition, they’re more open to diversity and tend to ask the whys and wherefores of things.

In short, their sense of transcendence is high. Therefore, they seek to place themselves and conceive of life and daily actions in the context of interconnection with the entire universe.

The importance of fostering existential intelligence

Existential intelligence implies the development of the previous kinds. Self-knowledge, interpersonal skills, mathematical and linguistic knowledge, and body control are essential to understand these kinds of abstract issues and to apply these approaches.

Children naturally show the philosophical restlessness and curiosity that characterize this type of intelligence. However, they tend to be ignored or silenced sooner rather than later. It’s also common for these approaches to reappear in adolescence. Nevertheless, society doesn’t go along with these kinds of reflexive processes. In fact, it tends to overshadow them in favor of individualism and a material life.

Despite this, the sense of transcendence is inherent to the human being. Furthermore, putting it aside can generate extensive emotional discomfort. Therefore, it’s essential to recover and enhance this valuable intelligence. For example, in schools, the syllabus should always be connected with its practical application in real life. Indeed, students should be encouraged to look at the same problem from different angles and their curiosity should be fostered.

In our daily lives, we can foster this intelligence through practices such as meditation, introspection, contact with nature, taking care of our physical well-being, the arts, and prosocial behaviors. Finally, if you’re one of those who possess high existential intelligence and sometimes you feel different, value your uniqueness and take advantage of it.

It might interest you...

What Is Existential Intelligence? (with pictures)



Fact Checked

Sandi Johnson

Existential intelligence is an individual’s capacity or ability to understand and contemplate philosophical topics relating to mankind’s existence. According to the theory of existential intelligence, some individuals have an easier time conceptualizing deep philosophical questions, such as the origin of mankind, what constitutes consciousness, and man’s purpose on earth. Those individuals with a strong tendency toward existential intelligence are, according to some experts, more inclined to ask questions regarding these ultimate realities, including the meaning of life.

In terms of the origin of the phrase, the concept is tied to philosophical theories as well as the theory of multiple intelligences. Regarding the concept’s definition, this type of intelligence draws on many of the same questions and topics associated with existentialism, a method of philosophical inquiry popularized in the 1940s and 1950s. Existentialism proposes that human existence cannot be defined by spiritual or scientific categories currently in existence, but rather requires a deeper understanding. Using existentialism as a basis of understanding, the concept of existential intelligence is then associated with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.

Howard Gardner of Harvard University first presented the idea of multiple intelligences in the early 1980s. Education and psychology experts had sought a better understanding of the natural way children think and learn, so Gardner developed a theory to help identify the strongest tendencies in school age children. Initially, Gardner presented the concept of seven intelligences, including logical or mathematical, spatial, musical, and others. The theory of multiple intelligences was designed to explain different types of learning modalities and thus allow educators to develop learning plans to work with the strengths of each child.

After introducing his theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner and other education and psychology experts continued researching the concept. Several professionals, including Gardner, later proposed additional types of intelligence. Although Gardner neither publicly nor officially included existential intelligence in his revised theory, he and other professionals discussed its existence. While remaining unofficial in terms of including this concept in his theory, Gardner proposed a definition for the concept if it were to be included with his other intelligences.

Since the theory of multiple intelligences centers on education and early childhood psychology, some experts argue the validity of including existential intelligence with Gardner’s other intelligences. Deep philosophical questions regarding mankind’s existence often stir intense, passionate debate, a prospect some experts argue has no place in childhood education. Avoiding such debates is the primary reason most experts decline to add this concept to the greater theory of multiple intelligences.

You might also Like



What is existential intelligence and how to develop it? He identified nine types of intelligence: naturalistic, musical, logical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, linguistic, spatial, and existential.

Among them, the last one stands out especially - at least for its incomprehensibility for most people. So what is it and why is it so important?

What is existential intelligence

Existential intelligence is the ability to use intuition, thinking and metacognition. Such intelligence helps to ask and answer deep questions about human existence. Simply put, it is a craving for the study of the unknown, philosophical thinking. People with a well-developed existential intelligence are interested in important questions, but do not always want to get answers to them. Their goal is a reasoning on the subject of the unknown, and not the final result.

For such people, the very process of cognition and comprehension is more exciting. They constantly ask themselves and those around them questions: who are we? why do we live and why? Why and how do we become aware of our surroundings? what is the meaning of life and what is our place in the universe? The craving for the unknown and that which is impossible to know in principle is the existential intelligence.

Gardner, as the creator of the concept of multiple intelligences, argues that the key point in existentiality is the ability to perceive the picture of the world in a broader sense, the vision of the relationship between our being and the entire universe.

What is the meaning of life? Philosophers have the answer

Why is it so important

The fact is that existential intelligence is one of the main engines of progress, because a person who regularly thinks about deep questions about his self-identification and human nature will strive more strongly to know the environment peace.

Existential intelligence leads to self-reflective consciousness and enhances our capacity for self-awareness and self-transformation. Even with maximum automation and the development of artificial intelligence, robots will not be subject to this level of thinking. Machines can adopt logic, but they are incapable of learning intuitive thinking, and in the future this will be one of the few features that distinguish a living being from a computer.

With an existential intelligence, you will not be afraid to explore moral dilemmas, engage in philosophical debate, guide others on the path to a deeper knowledge of the essence of being, understand the collective existence of society as it is.

People who develop their existential intelligence or use what is given to them from birth often succeed in oratory, become qualified psychologists, teachers and theologians, as they understand human essence much better and are not afraid to look into the depths of consciousness.

The development of your existential intelligence will bring many new questions into your life and make you think about things that did not bother you before. But it will also contribute to psychological peace, finding peace of mind.

Existential intelligence is not only for philosophers and fans of paranormal thinking - it is also required in science. For example, there is the double slit experiment developed by the physicist Thomas Young. In it, scientists fired photons through two slits and watched them appear on a screen from the other side. When the photons were not being tracked by the instruments, they, passing through the slits, behaved like waves and, accordingly, were displayed on the screen. But it was enough to turn on the tracking equipment - and they "turned" into particles. That is, due to the fact of the presence of an observer, photons transformed their nature.

And here, too, existential intelligence is needed. Through its prism, we can talk about our influence on the world around us, the consequences of our presence for objective reality, about changing this reality, creating a new one while observing it. Do we really perceive the world as it is, or do we change it for ourselves by our presence, distorting it?

Discussing these questions helps us broaden our horizons, force ourselves to pay more attention to the environment and get closer to answering the most important questions, even if this answer is outside the boundaries of our perception.

How to develop existential intelligence

Do you have existential intelligence? Yes and no. Gardner says that every person has all forms of intelligence. Another question is what you work on the most.

To develop existential intelligence, psychologists recommend giving yourself time for dreams and fantasies, practicing meditation, developing critical thinking skills, discussing the world order and the place of man in the universe with other people.

In addition, it is worth studying the ancient and modern philosophers, especially the idealists who put the mind above matter. If you see in the works of philosophers reasoning on the topics “Who are we?”, “Where did we come from?”, “Where are we going?”, “What is our role?” and “What is the meaning of life?”, then you have chosen the right literature for the development of existential intelligence.

For better knowledge, psychologists and philosophers advise to introduce the Socratic method, based on a dialogue between two individuals for whom truth and knowledge are not given in a ready-made form and are a problem that needs to be solved through discussion, by answering questions and making judgments . With this method, the interlocutors come to the conclusion about their ignorance or, conversely, about understanding the essence.

3 Eastern philosophy for those who are not able to live normally

Other articles on topics:


90,000 nine types of intelligence: Learn your

1. Visual-spatial intelligence

Not everyone can create 3D models in his head by solving a geometric problem or drawing a three-dimensional image. This ability is typical for people with visual-spatial intelligence.

Strengths: creation of visual and spatial images, easy handling of them.

Personal characteristics:

  • likes to read, write, draw;
  • solves puzzles quickly;
  • interprets pictures, graphs and diagrams well;
  • memorizes maps and navigates the terrain.

Potential career:

  • architect;
  • artist;
  • engineer.

2. Linguistic-verbal intelligence

This kind of intelligence refers to a person's ability to use words effectively to express what he means.

Strengths: effective work with information, rapid learning of languages ​​and writing.

Human characteristics:

  • remembers written and oral information well;
  • likes to read and can write good text;
  • makes persuasive speeches;
  • can explain well;
  • often uses humor when telling stories.

Potential career:

  • writer or journalist;
  • lawyer;
  • teacher.

3. Logical-mathematical intelligence

Usually, the most obvious indicators used in determining intelligence are logical and mathematical abilities. In Gardner's concept, this is one of the types of intelligence.

Strengths: ability to recognize patterns and analyze information, conceptual thinking, and quick math problem solving.

Personal characteristics:

  • excellent problem solving skills;
  • thinks abstractly;
  • likes to do scientific experiments;
  • solves complex calculations well.

Potential career:

  • scientist;
  • mathematician;
  • programmer;
  • engineer;
  • accountant.

4. Body-kinesthetic intelligence

High coordination of mind and body is inherent in people with body-kinesthetic intelligence.

Strengths: high motor activity, precise coordination, dexterity, tactile memory.

Human characteristics:

  • dances well and loves sports;
  • likes to make things with her own hands;
  • excellent physical coordination;
  • physical endurance.

Potential career:

  • dancer;
  • builder;
  • sculptor;
  • actor.

5. Musical intelligence

If a person has the talent to disassemble musical compositions into elements and track all the instruments that sound in it, then he is the owner of musical intelligence.

Strengths: sense of rhythm, ear and musical talent.

Human characteristics:

  • loves to sing and play musical instruments;
  • easily guesses musical compositions;
  • memorizes songs and melodies well;
  • understands musical structure, rhythm and notes.

Potential career:

  • musician;
  • composer;
  • singer;
  • music teacher.

6. Interpersonal Intelligence

Emotions are closely related to your intellect. Interpersonal intelligence refers to the ability to sense the feelings of other people as well as understand the motives behind their behavior.

Strengths: empathy and interaction with other people.

Characteristics of a person:

  • knows how to evaluate the emotions, motives, desires and intentions of others;
  • communicates well;
  • has a skill in non-verbal communication;
  • sees situations from different points of view;
  • creates positive relationships with others;
  • is able to resolve conflicts.

Potential career:

  • psychologist;
  • consultant;
  • coach;
  • salesman;
  • policy

7. Intrapersonal intelligence

Self-awareness is also a form of intelligence. If a person understands himself, his desires, knows what he feels and why he feels it, then we can say with confidence that he has intrapersonal intelligence.

Strengths: introspection and self-reflection.

Human characteristics:

  • understands his strengths and weaknesses well;
  • likes to analyze theories and ideas;
  • excellent self-awareness;
  • clearly defines his emotional state.

Potential career:

  • philosopher;
  • writer;
  • scientist.

8. Naturalistic intelligence

The ability to “read” and understand nature and all living beings inhabiting it is the main characteristic of naturalistic intelligence.

Strengths: ability to study the environment.

Personal characteristics: