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Robert Sternberg in Psychology: Theory, Creativity & Intelligence

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  • 0:01 Sternberg's Theory
  • 1:42 Three Parts of Intelligence
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

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.

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.

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