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Robert Sternberg is an American psychologist and professor who is best known for his theory on intelligence and creativity.

Learn about Sternberg’s views on intelligence, information processing, the basic mental processes, and more.

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Sternberg’s Theory of Intelligence and Information Processing

Intelligence is one of the most complex, talked about concepts within the field of psychology. In the past century, several theories about what constitutes intelligence have been created. Robert Sternberg, an American psychologist, created one of the most well-known theories of intelligence. Unlike most theories of intelligence, Sternberg’s theory calls for the integration of intelligence and creativity.According to Robert Sternberg’s theory, there are three basic mental processes that underlie all intelligent behavior.

The three basic mental processes are:

  • Metacomponents
  • Performance components
  • Knowledge-acquisition components

Although what is viewed as intelligent in one culture might not be viewed as intelligent in another, the basic mental processes are the same across different cultures.Metacomponents are the executive processes that we use to solve problems, plan what to do, make decisions, and evaluate outcomes. Performance components carry out the directions of the metacomponents. It is performance components that allow us to store information in short-term memory, compare two concepts, compare solutions to the task, etc.

Knowledge-acquisition components are what we use to learn and store new information. In other words, metacomponents tell us what to do, performance components actually do it, and knowledge-acquisition components make sure we learn things along the way.For example, you may plan to read a book – that involves metacomponents.

When you grab a book off the shelf and actually read it, that involves performance components. If you learn new vocabulary words while reading, that involves knowledge-acquisition components.

Three Parts of Intelligence

So what makes a person intelligent? According to Sternberg, intelligence cannot be defined by intelligence tests such as the Stanford-Binet scales. Rather, intelligence should be defined in terms of how you perform in your everyday world.Sternberg refers to what he calls successful intelligence. People who are successfully intelligent are able to define and achieve their own idea of success within their culture. People who are successfully intelligent are skilled at adapting to and modifying their environment to fit their needs.

Because your intelligence is highly dependent upon the culture that you live in, an individual that is considered intelligent in one culture might not be considered intelligent in another.There are three components of successful intelligence: analytical, creative, and practical intelligence. It is not enough to possess the three components.

One must know when and how to use these components in order to be effective.

Analytical Intelligence

Have you ever been called ‘book smart?’ If so, you were being complimented on your analytical intelligence, which refers to your ability to problem-solve, process information effectively, and complete academic tasks. Analytical intelligence is also called componential intelligence. People with high analytical intelligence perform well on traditional IQ tests (i.e.

, Stanford-Binet scales), college admission exams (i.e., Scholastic Assessment Test), and school exams (i.e. math quizzes). They are skilled at critical thinking and analytical thinking.

People with high analytical intelligence can examine problems from multiple points of view.

Creative Intelligence

Creative intelligence is our ability to call upon existing knowledge and skills to effectively handle new and unusual situations. It is also called experiential intelligence because creative intelligence involves using past experiences.

People with high creative intelligence have great insight, imagination, and are able to formulate new ideas. For example, painters are often able to use their imagination to paint original artwork. Unlike analytical intelligence, creative intelligence is often overlooked by intelligence tests.

Practical Intelligence

Have you ever been told that you are street-smart? If so, you were being complimented on your practical intelligence, the ability to call upon our existing knowledge and skills to adapt to or shape our changing environment. Practical intelligence is also referred to as contextual knowledge because it is dependent upon the context, or situation. People with high practical intelligence are able to identify the factors that are needed for success and are able to adapt to or modify their environment so that they can achieve their goals.

Practical intelligence is comprised of three things:

  1. Adapting to your environment to achieve success
  2. Shaping or modifying the environment to achieve success
  3. If the other two do not work, going to a new environment where you can be successful

Practical intelligence is what we rely on when we deal with personal, everyday sorts of problems. For example, suppose that you were driving on a highway, got a flat tire, and your cell phone was dead. It is your practical intelligence that you would rely on in this situation. Like creative intelligence, traditional intelligence tests fail to measure practical intelligence.

Lesson Summary

Perhaps one of the most notable theories on intelligence came from Robert Sternberg. His theory states that metacomponents, performance components, and knowledge-acquisition components underlie intelligent behavior. There are also three parts of intelligence: analytical, creative, and practical. So the next time someone calls you street smart, remember that they are not talking about how well you know the names of your local roads. They are talking about your ability to adapt.

Learning Outcomes

Following this video lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe Robert Sternberg’s theory on intelligence
  • Recall the three components that underlie intelligent behavior according to Sternberg
  • Explain analytical, creative and practical intelligence

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