Naturalistic Intelligence: What It Is, Characteristics, Examples And Activities

Currently, and recently, the ability to relate to the environment and its elements is considered an intelligence, naturalistic intelligence. Despite being a skill that is little valued academically and, above all, in urban environments, this intelligence was what allowed human beings to survive from the beginning of evolution. If you want to know more about this intelligence and how to exercise it, keep reading this PsychologyFor article: Naturalistic intelligence: what it is, characteristics, examples and activities.

Naturalistic intelligence, as proposed by Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences, refers to the ability to recognize, appreciate, and understand the natural world and its phenomena. Individuals with high naturalistic intelligence exhibit a keen awareness of their surroundings, possess a deep connection with nature, and demonstrate a profound understanding of living organisms, ecosystems, and environmental patterns.

Naturalistic intelligence: what it is, characteristics, examples and activities - Naturalistic intelligence: characteristics

Naturalistic intelligence: what it is

The naturalistic intelligence It is one of the skills identified by psychologist Howard Gardner in his Theory of multiple intelligences, which dates back to 1983. This type of intelligence was added later, in 1995, since initially its capabilities were included in spatial and logical-mathematical intelligence. However, after researching it and the various aspects that make it up, he decided to consider it and recognize it as an independent and differentiated intelligence.

The naturalistic intelligence It is defined as the ability to perceive the environment and make classifications, distinctions and manipulations of the different elements that compose it; objects, plants or animals and their details. Furthermore, it implies the ability to make connections and relationships between these components, with the aim of improving the interaction with the environment through the information collected. This definition covers both urban, suburban and rural contexts.

Naturalistic intelligence is considered the most influential in human beings at an evolutionary level, since determined survival in the natural environment and the capacity to adapt and influence the habitat. For this reason, its emergence and development is located in the Paleolithic.

In this capacity, a series of mental processes are involved, such as observation, selection, classification and categorization skills, identification of relationships, formulation of hypotheses related to the environment, experimentation and orientation towards nature. Despite the involvement of various cognitive processes, the essential characteristic of this intelligence has to do with the information or elements with which it works, that is, the environment.

Due to the involvement of multiple factors, a specific brain location for this intelligence has not yet been established, although it is generally considered to be related to the right hemisphere

Characteristics of Naturalistic Intelligence

1. Observational Skills

People with naturalistic intelligence have exceptional observational skills. They notice subtle changes in their environment, such as shifts in weather patterns, seasonal variations, or animal behavior. Their keen eye for detail allows them to gather information from the natural world effortlessly.

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2. Appreciation of Nature

Individuals with naturalistic intelligence possess a profound appreciation for nature’s beauty and complexity. They find solace and inspiration in natural landscapes, flora, and fauna. Spending time in natural settings rejuvenates them and enhances their overall well-being.

3. Understanding of Ecological Systems

Naturalistic intelligence involves a deep understanding of ecological systems and the interconnections between living organisms and their environments. People with this intelligence grasp concepts such as food chains, biodiversity, and the impact of human activities on ecosystems.

4. Ability to Identify Patterns

Naturalistic thinkers excel at identifying patterns and relationships within the natural world. They can recognize recurring phenomena, such as migration patterns of birds, the blooming cycles of plants, or the behavior of animals during different seasons.

5. Hands-On Learning Preference

Individuals with naturalistic intelligence often prefer hands-on learning experiences that involve direct interaction with nature. They thrive in outdoor settings where they can explore, experiment, and engage with the natural environment firsthand.

Examples of Naturalistic Intelligence

1. Botanist

A botanist is someone who studies plants and their ecosystems. They have a deep understanding of plant anatomy, growth patterns, and ecological interactions. Botanists may specialize in fields such as taxonomy, ethnobotany, or plant ecology.

2. Wildlife Biologist

Wildlife biologists study the behavior, distribution, and conservation of wild animals. They conduct research in diverse habitats, from forests and wetlands to deserts and oceans. Wildlife biologists play a crucial role in preserving biodiversity and protecting endangered species.

3. Meteorologist

Meteorologists analyze atmospheric conditions to forecast weather patterns and phenomena. They use scientific instruments, satellite data, and computer models to track weather systems and predict changes in temperature, precipitation, and wind patterns. Meteorologists help communities prepare for natural disasters and mitigate their impact.

4. Environmental Educator

Environmental educators inspire people to connect with nature and become stewards of the environment. They design and implement educational programs, workshops, and outdoor activities that foster environmental awareness and conservation ethics. Environmental educators may work in schools, nature centers, parks, or nonprofit organizations.

5. Ecological Restoration Specialist

Ecological restoration specialists work to rehabilitate damaged ecosystems and restore their natural balance. They assess environmental degradation, develop restoration plans, and implement conservation projects aimed at revitalizing habitats, restoring native species, and enhancing biodiversity.

Naturalistic intelligence manifests in various professions and activities that involve a deep appreciation for the natural world and a commitment to its preservation. By recognizing and nurturing this form of intelligence, individuals can contribute to environmental stewardship and promote sustainable living practices.

Naturalistic intelligence: professions

People with a high development of naturalistic intelligence are inclined towards professions or disciplines such as biology, veterinary, botany, zoology paleontology, meteorology, gardening, agronomy, agriculture, paleontology, forestry safety, geology, astronomy, landscaping, etc.

Naturalistic intelligence: characters

Below we show you a series of characters and examples of naturalistic intelligence:

  • Alexander von Humboldt: He was a 19th century Prussian naturalist and explorer who traveled throughout America, where he also condemned slavery and discrimination. He is considered the father of modern geography and an example of a person with naturalistic intelligence. He worked for science for 70 years and allocated a large part of his economy to helping young people with limited resources who wanted to dedicate themselves to science. He is considered one of the first Westerners to suggest that humans could be causing climate change and having a negative impact on the environment.
  • George Washington Carver: was an African-American agronomist and botanist of the 19th century. He was born into a family of slaves and was freed at the end of the civil war. He is recognized as one of the great agricultural researchers, throughout his life he worked in agricultural extension, sustainable agriculture and the promotion of alternative crops and new applications of them. Furthermore, another of his objectives was to teach the former slaves already freed different agricultural techniques to achieve self-sufficiency and independence, which is why he is an example of naturalistic intelligence.
  • Jane Goodall: is an English primatologist and ethologist. She is currently considered the greatest expert on chimpanzees, since she has been studying them for more than 55 years. Her research focuses on the social and family interactions of these primates, but her results have also provided knowledge about the behavior of human beings. In addition, she has done great work in defending and protecting animal welfare.
  • Indigenous villages: In general, indigenous peoples constitute an excellent example of naturalistic intelligence, since they live in total respect and harmony with nature, denounce its exploitation and actively defend it against its destruction, sometimes with their own lives. Some of the indigenous leaders are Berta Cáceres and Luis Macas.
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Naturalistic intelligence: activities

Research on naturalistic intelligence shows that living or having grown up in a rural environment or close to nature influences the development of this type of ability. However, with adequate stimulation and exercise, training is possible, since, as Gardner theorized, intelligences are not static and fixed. Therefore, below we show a series of activities that can be done to increase naturalistic intelligence:

  • Contact with the nature: The most basic of all exercises to stimulate naturalistic intelligence is to get in touch with nature. You can explore what natural sites exist near where you live and make a periodic visit or excursion to each of them. Many times we are not aware of what is in our environment, which is why it is important to investigate it. Here you will find different ecological and economical activities to do outdoors.
  • Observation: In the natural environment it is advisable to pay attention to the different elements that make it up. To facilitate this task you can read about the characteristics of the place before visiting it, to know in advance what you should look for and have some information. Another activity to develop naturalistic intelligence is to make a record of observations and prepare a field diary, including photos or drawings, if you enjoy photography or painting.
  • Use of instruments: To complement the outings to the natural environment you can use magnifying glasses, microscopes or telescopes. These will also help you classify the elements you find, being another exercise to enhance naturalistic intelligence.
  • Daily activities: Try doing an activity that you enjoy, such as reading or practicing relaxation or sports, but in a different environment than what you are used to and that is more natural. In this way you will get closer to nature, you will be aware of the differences from one environment to another and you will observe how they affect the completion of this task.
  • Learn: Currently there is a large number of documentaries, magazines, blogs and websites that address different aspects of the natural world; animals, space, natural environments, etc. One of the possible activities to develop naturalistic intelligence is to analyze what topic you would like to learn more about or are curious about and seek more information about it through a resource.
  • Visits: Another useful exercise is to visit botanical gardens, natural history museums, parks, nature centers, etc.
  • Appreciate nature: To develop naturalistic intelligence, be aware of natural environments; when you visit them, stop and enjoy the small sensations they produce by paying attention with all your senses.
  • Excursions: To appreciate nature more, it may be a good option to take a getaway or excursion. In addition, you can do exercises that you find rewarding such as hiking, canoeing, caving, etc. Another activity option to develop naturalistic intelligence is to visit natural parks or take guided routes, in which the expert provides explanations about the environment, and sometimes activities are even included as a complementary way to the information.
  • Become aware: consciously reflects about nature, the changes it has undergone in recent years and the impact of human beings on this wear and tear. Learn about the consequences of climate change, the extinction of species and the destruction of natural resources.
  • Takes care: Another activity to develop naturalistic intelligence can be having plants or animals in your home, only if you are able to take responsibility for them. You can also plant some food or, if you have space, create a small garden.

Naturalistic intelligence test

With this multiple intelligences test you will be able to discover which intelligence stands out in you among Howard Gardner’s 8 intelligences:

  • Linguistic Intelligence
  • Logical Intelligence – Mathematics
  • Visual-Spatial Intelligence
  • Kinesthetic or Body-Kinetic Intelligence
  • Musical intelligence
  • Interpersonal intelligence
  • Intrapersonal intelligence
  • Naturalistic Intelligence

This article is merely informative, at PsychologyFor we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Naturalistic intelligence: what it is, characteristics, examples and activities we recommend that you enter our Cognitive Psychology category.


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  • Gardner, H. (1998). A Reply to Perry D. Klein’s “Multiplying the Problems of Intelligence by Eight.” Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l’éducation23(1), 96-102.
  • Sandoval, A., González, L., González, O., & Lauretti, P. (2013). Naturalistic and existential intelligence: a contribution to emotional development and well-being. Multisciences13(3), 290-298.