Your Mental Identity—How do you learn, and how do you use this knowledge?

Two ways of defining your mental identity are how you take in information (your learning style) and what you do with the knowledge you’ve acquired (your type of intelligence).

Acquiring Information:  Learning Styles

Illustration of three learning stylesOne of the most common and widely used learning styles models is Neil Fleming’s VAK (and later VARK—R=Read/Write) model. Fleming, a teacher in New Zealand, created this model (updating the VAK model in 1987) to explain why different people learn differently.

Below are the three learning styles widely accepted by psychologists and their frequency and characteristics.

Visual Learners

  • 60–65% of the population.
  • Learn best by seeing information presented in pictures, charts, graphics, illustrations, or diagrams.
  • Remember details in picture form.
  • Are able to create strong visualizations of sizes, shapes, textures, and depth in their minds.
  • Pay close attention to the body language and facial expressions of others.
  • Have a keen awareness of the aesthetics of the physical environment.
  • Read or watch TV to relax.
  • Remember people’s faces better than their names.
  • Need an organized space to concentrate.
  • Solve problems by writing out possible solutions.

Auditory Learners

  • 30% of the population.
  • Learn best by hearing information and memorizing sounds.
  • Have strong language skills including a well-developed vocabulary, appreciation for words, and talent for foreign languages.
  • Are interesting and articulate conversationalists.
  • Are musically talented:  can hear tones, rhythms, and individual notes.
  • Are easily distracted by noises.
  • Listen to music or the radio to relax.
  • Remember people’s names better than their faces.
  • Learn new ideas from audio tapes.
  • Solve problems by talking through possible solutions.

Kinesthetic Learners

  • 5–10% of the population.
  • Learn best by moving their bodies and through physical interaction.
  • Are hands-on learners.
  • Wiggle, tap feet, or move legs when sitting.
  • Were often labeled “hyperactive” as children.
  • Are good at working with tools and their hands.
  • Play sports or do physical activity to relax.
  • Remember people by recalling things they did with them.
  • Are distracted by moving people when concentrating.
  • Learn about a new idea by going to a seminar.
  • Solve problems through hands-on experience.

Applying Information:  Types of Intelligence

Illustration of eight intelligences

Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist and Harvard University professor, originally conceptualized his theory on multiple intelligences as a way to merge art with psychology, not as a means of determining learning styles in an educational setting, which is how this theory is frequently used today. His book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, explains that there is not just one type of intelligence, but many. He defines intelligence as “…the human ability to solve problems or to make something that is valued in one or more cultures.”

Gardner initially identified seven different kinds of intelligence, but has since identified two others for a total of nine. Below is a summary of these various intelligences.

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence: Word Smart
Ability to express yourself through language.

  • Think in words.
  • Are sensitive to the meaning, sounds, rhythm, and order of words.
  • Have highly developed auditory skills.
  • Play with sound in language.
  • Enjoy storytelling, creative writing, poetry, jokes, humor, puzzles, riddles, and reading.
  • Love seeing, saying, and hearing words.

Mathematical/Logical Intelligence: Number Smart
Ability to understand the underlying principles of systems and discern logical or numerical patterns.

  • Think conceptually.
  • Are skilled in reasoning, logic, problem solving, mathematics, and other complex logical systems.
  • Explore patterns, categories, and relationships.
  • Question and wonder about natural events.
  • Enjoy number games, problem solving, pattern games, and experimenting.
  • Have strong reasoning skills and ask questions in a logical manner.
  • Like order and step-by-step directions.

Spatial/Visual Intelligence: Picture Smart
Ability to perceive and present the visual world accurately and recreate or alter it in the mind.

  • Think in images and pictures.
  • Produce clear visual images in their mind.
  • Know the location of everything.
  • Enjoy creating visual patterns and need visual stimulation.
  • Are daydreamers.

Body/Kinesthetic Intelligence: Body Smart
Ability to use one’s body and handle objects in a skilled way, for self-expression or towards a goal.

  • Process knowledge through bodily sensation.
  • Have excellent motor skills and coordination.
  • Have gut feelings about things.
  • Need to move around (often labeled as hyperactive).
  • Are athletic and active.
  • Enjoy creative dramatics, role-playing, dancing, and expressing themselves through movement and body actions.
  • Learn through physical movement and from touching and feeling.
  • Use movement, gestures, and physical expression to learn and solve problems.
  • May touch when talking.

Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence: Music Smart
Ability to understand, appreciate, and create music; ability to hear, recognize, and manipulate patterns.

  • Think in sounds, rhythms, and patterns.
  • Sing, hum, and whistle to themselves.
  • Immediately respond to music.
  • Perform and appreciate music.
  • Are sensitive to environmental sounds: crickets, bells, alarms, ambient music, etc.
  • Have strong opinions on music.
  • Enjoy playing instruments, singing songs, drumming.
  • Like the sounds of the human voice, environmental sounds, and instrumental sounds.
  • Learn easier if things are set to music or to a beat.

Interpersonal/Social Intelligence: People Smart
Ability to understand other people—their moods, desires, and motivations.

  • Think and process by relating, cooperating, and communicating with others.
  • Are natural leaders.
  • Sense feelings and intentions of others; are intuitive.
  • Understand people; mediate conflicts.
  • Are skilled at organizing, coordinating, and manipulating people.
  • Are street smart.
  • Have many friends.
  • Are very social.
  • Enjoy being part of a group.
  • Can help peers work cooperatively with others.

Intrapersonal/Individualistic Intelligence: Self Smart
Ability to understanding one’s self, emotions, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, identity, and purpose.

  • Are skilled in inner focusing.
  • Have a deep awareness of inner feelings, dreams, and ideas.
  • Are reflective, analytical, self-motivated, and individualistic.
  • Prefer individual/solitary activities to group/team activities.
  • Recognize self strengths and weaknesses.
  • Require private space and time.
  • Like to work independently.
  • Understand their own feelings, motivations, and moods.

Naturalist/Environmental Intelligence: Nature Smart
Ability to recognize and classify plants, minerals, animals, and cultural artifacts; knowledge of relationships in nature.

  • Sensitive to nature.
  • Understand environmental systems.

Existential/Spiritual Intelligence: Spirit Smart
Ability to pose and ponder questions about the meaning of life and the structure of the universe and consciousness and to understand philosophical and theological issues.

  • Are curious about the universe, consciousness, and the meaning of life.
  • Seek connection/communion with a higher power.

Check out these online tests to find your learning style and type of intelligence:


What’s Your Brain Type?

Model of four areas of brain dominance

 Understanding your brain dominance, and therefore what knowledge and skills come easily to you, can be a huge benefit in many areas of life, especially career. Below are a couple personality systems based on brain dominance, and three online tests to find out your brain type.

Katherine Benziger is a psychologist with over 25 years experience with personality assessing for business based on brain dominance theory. Her system focuses on wellness and places a strong emphasis on avoiding falsifying one’s type. She believes each person has one natural mode (brain area), but can develop competencies in other modes with practice.

Below is a table describing the four brain regions and how they compare to Myers-Briggs typology. In addition to these four types, there are also combinations: dual- and whole-brained competencies.

Mode Brain Area Focus Description Jungian Function Jungian Superior and Auxiliary Functions Myers Briggs Types
1 Basal Left Order, Routine Process, Procedures Realistic, down-to-earth, practical, sensible, past-focused, detailed, structured, ordered, efficient, dependable, reliable, obedient, deadline-oriented, disciplined Sensing ST and SF ESTP ISTJ ESFP ISFJ
2 Basal Right Intuition, Empathy, Spirituality, Rhythm, Harmony Subjective, personal, values intimacy, sees extenuating circumstances, humane, sees harmony, empathic, compassionate, intuitive, sensitive, connects well and easily with people, caring, compassionate, good interpersonal skills Feeling FS and FN ESFJ ISFP ENFJ INFP
3 Frontal Right Vision, Creativity, Imagination, Expression Speculative, fantasy-/idea-focused, imaginative, future-focused, sees the “big picture”, uses metaphors, visualizer, conceptualizer, expressive, enthusiastic, change-seeking, easily bored Intuition NT and NF ENTP INTJ ENFP INFJ
4 Frontal Left Logic, Results, Structure, Analysis Analytical, objective, critical, principled, scientific, logical, mathematical, tactical, goal-/ task-/results-oriented, direct Thinking TS and TN ESTJ ISTP ENTJ INTP

Brain typing is another personality assessment system, which was developed in the late 1970s by Jon Niednagel, a sports coach, who observed that children with similar personalities had similar motor skills. This emphasis on motor skills is how this system differs from other typologies. It recognizes 16 types, like the Myers-Briggs typology system.

The below table describes the eight functions that are matched together to create these 16 brain types:

Brain Type Jungian-Myers Correspondence Description
Front Extraversion External, expressive, broad
Back Introversion Internal, reflective, deep
Empirical Sensing Observer, literal, concrete, realist, pragmatic
Conceptual Intuitive Imaginative, abstract, theoretical, idealistic, visionary
Animate Feeling Emotional, compassionate, feelings-oriented, subjective
Inanimate Thinking Logical, justice-seeking, objective
Right Perceiving Holistic, adaptable, artistic, spatial, visual
Left Judging Analytical, ordered, detailed, numerical, verbal

And lastly, some keyword traits for left brain vs. right brain dominance:

Left Brain Right Brain
Analytical, hard facts, discipline, rules,  math, science, categorizing, logic,  deductive reasoning, details, definitions, planning, goals, productivity, words, technology, literal, orderly, exact Intuitive, feelings, sensitivity, emotions, daydreaming, visualizing, creativity, color, spatial awareness, first impressions, rhythm, spontaneity, impulsiveness, flexibility, humor, relationships, mysticism, abstract concepts

To find out your brain dominance, check out these three free online tests:

Similar Minds:

The Art Institute of Vancouver:

Brain Types: