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Robert Jeffrey Sternberg
Born December 8, 1949 (1949-12-08) (age 60)
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields psychometrician
Institutions Tufts University
Alma mater Yale University, Stanford University
Doctoral advisor Gordon Bower
Known for Triarchic theory of intelligence, Triangular theory of love

Robert Jeffrey Sternberg (born December 8, 1949), is an American psychologist and psychometrician and the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University. He was formerly IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University and the President of the American Psychological Association. He is a member of the editorial boards of numerous journals, including American Psychologist. Sternberg has a BA from Yale University and a PhD from Stanford University. Gordon Bower was his PhD advisor. He holds ten honorary doctorates from one North American, one South American, and eight European universities, and additionally holds an honorary professorate at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

Contents

Research interests

Sternberg's main research include the following interests:

  • Higher mental functions, including intelligence and creativity
  • Styles of thinking
  • Cognitive modifiability
  • Leadership
  • Love and hate

Sternberg has proposed a triarchic theory of intelligence and a triangular theory of love. He is the creator (with Todd Lubart[1]) of the investment theory of creativity, which states that creative people buy low and sell high in the world of ideas, and a propulsion theory of creative contributions, which states that creativity is a form of leadership.

He is spearheading an experimental admissions process at Tufts to quantifiably test the creativity of an applicant.[2]

Sternberg has criticized IQ tests, saying they are "convenient partial operationalizations of the construct of intelligence, and nothing more. They do not provide the kind of measurement of intelligence that tape measures provide of height."[3]

In 1995, he was on an American Psychological Association task force writing a consensus statement on the state of intelligence research in response to the claims being advanced amid the Bell Curve controversy, titled "Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns."

A theory of intelligence

Many descriptions of intelligence focus on mental abilities such as vocabulary, comprehension, memory and problem-solving that can be measured through intelligence tests. This reflects the tendency of psychologists to develop their understanding of intelligence by observing behaviour believed to be associated with intelligence.

Sternberg believes that this focus on specific types of measurable mental abilities is too narrow. He believes that studying intelligence in this way leads to an understanding of only one part of intelligence and that this part is only seen in people who are "school smart" or "book smart".

There are, for example, many individuals who score poorly on intelligence tests, but are creative or are "street smart" and therefore have a very good ability to adapt and shape their environment. According to Sternberg (2003), giftedness should be examined in a broader way incorporating other parts of intelligence.

Sternberg (2003) categorizes intelligence into three parts, which are central in his theory, the triarchic theory of intelligence:

  • Analytical intelligence, the ability to complete academic, problem-solving tasks, such as those used in traditional intelligence tests. These types of tasks usually present well-defined problems that have only a single correct answer.
  • Creative or synthetic intelligence, the ability to successfully deal with new and unusual situations by drawing on existing knowledge and skills. Individuals high in creative intelligence may give 'wrong' answers because they see things from a different perspective.
  • Practical intelligence, the ability to adapt to everyday life by drawing on existing knowledge and skills. Practical intelligence enables an individual to understand what needs to be done in a specific setting and then do it.

Sternberg (2003) discusses experience and its role in intelligence. Creative or synthetic intelligence helps individuals to transfer information from one problem to another. Sternberg calls the application of ideas from one problem to a new type of problem relative novelty. In contrast to the skills of relative novelty there is relative familiarity which enables an individual to become so familiar with a process that it becomes automatized. This can free up brain resources for coping with new ideas.

Context, or how one adapts, selects and shapes their environment is another area that is not represented by traditional measures of giftedness. Practically intelligent people are good at picking up tacit information and utilizing that information. They tend to shape their environment around them. (Sternberg, 2003)

Sternberg (2003) developed a testing instrument to identify people who are gifted in ways that other tests don't identify. The Sternberg Triarchic Abilities Test measures not only traditional intelligence abilities but analytic, synthetic, automazation and practical abilities as well. There are four ways in which this test is different from conventional intelligence tests.

  • This test is broader, measuring synthetic and practical skills in addition to analytic skills. The test provides scores on analytic, synthetic, automatization, and practical abilities, as well as verbal, quantitative, and figural processing abilities.
  • The test measures the ability to understand unknown words in context rather than vocabulary skills which are dependent on an individual's background.
  • The automatization subtest is the only part of the test that measures mental speed.
  • The test is based on a theory of intelligence.

[4]

Practical application

Sternberg added experimental criteria to the application process for undergraduates to Tufts University, where he is Dean of Arts and Sciences, to test "creativity and other non-academic factors." Calling it the "first major university to try such a departure from the norm," Inside Higher Ed noted that Tufts continues to consider the SAT and other traditional criteria.[5][6]

Criticisms

Sternberg's ideas have been repeatedly criticized in the scientific literature for lacking empirical support (e.g., Deary, 2001; Gottfredson, 2003; Jensen, 1998). The proliferation of "intelligences" he has been suggesting followed the lead of Howard Gardner (1983) and has been copied by other theorists who have been coming up with related notions (e.g., Daniel Goleman, 1995 - "Emotional intelligence").

In 2003, Linda Gottfredson, a professor at the University of Delaware, published a detailed refutation of the claims behind practical intelligence in the journal Intelligence;[7] the article won the 2005 Mensa Excellence in Research Award.

Theory of cognitive styles

Sternberg proposed a theory of cognitive styles in 1997.

The four forms of mental self-government are hierarchical, monarchic, oligarchic, and anarchic. The hierarchic style holds multiple goals simultaneously and prioritizes them. The oligarchic style is similar but differs in involving difficulty prioritizing. The monarchic style, in comparison, focuses on a single activity until completion. The anarchic style resists conformity to "systems, rules, or particular approaches to problems."

The two levels of mental self-government are local and global. The local style focuses on more specific and concrete problems. The global style, in comparison, focuses on more abstract and global problems.

The two scopes of mental self-government are internal and external. The internal style is the preference to work independently. The external style is the preference to work in collaboration.

The four leanings of mental self-government are the liberal, legislative, executive and conservative. The liberal style involves the attempt to change "existing rules and procedures". The legislative style adds an additional requirement that these changes conform to the individual(s)' ideas. The executive style, in comparison, involves following tradition. The conservative style involves the additional requirement that the ideas are the individual(s)'.

Bibliography

Key References
On "Higher Mental Functions":
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1977): Intelligence, information processing,and analogical reasoning: The componential analysis of human abilities.Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1985): Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1990): Metaphors of mind: Conceptions of the nature of intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1997): Successful intelligence. New York: Plume.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1999): "The theory of successful intelligence." Review of General Psychology, 3, 292-316.
  • Sternberg, R. J., Forsythe, G. B., Hedlund, J., Horvath, J., Snook, S., Williams, W. M., Wagner, R. K., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2000): Practical intelligence in everyday life. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sternberg, R. J., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2000): Teaching for successful intelligence. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight.
  • (2007) Sternberg, R.J.: Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized. New York: Cambridge University Press
Key References
On "Creativity":
  • Sternberg, R. J., James C Kaufman, & Pretz, J. E. (2002): The creativity conundrum: A propulsion model of creative contributions. Philadelphia, PA.
  • Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1995): Defying the crowd: Cultivating creativity in a culture of conformity. New York: Free Press.
  • Sternberg, R. J., & Williams, W. M. (1996): How to develop student creativity. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Key Reference
On "Leadership":

Sternberg, R. J., & Vroom, V. H. (2002): "The person versus the situation in leadership." Leadership Quarterly, 13, 301-323

Key Reference
On "Cognitive Styles":

Sternberg, R. & Grigorenko, E. (1997). Are cognitive styles still in style? American Psychologist, 52, 700-712.

See also

References

  1. ^ Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1995). Defying the crowd: Cultivating creativity in a culture of conformity. New York: Free Press.
  2. ^ Jaschik, Scott (2006). A "Rainbow" Approach to Admissions. Inside Higher Ed, July 6, 2006.
  3. ^ The Theory of Successful Intelligence Interamerican Journal of Psychology - 2005, Vol. 39, Num. 2 pp. 189-20
  4. ^ Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Giftedness According to the Theory of Successful Intelligence. In N. Colangelo & G. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of Gifted Education (88-99). Boston MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  5. ^ Jaschik, Scott (2006). A "Rainbow" Approach to Admissions. Inside Higher Ed, July 6, 2006.
  6. ^ McAnerny, Kelly (2005). From Sternberg, a new take on what makes kids Tufts-worthy. Tufts Daily, November 15, 2005.
  7. ^ Linda Gottfredson, "Dissecting practical intelligence theory: Its claims and evidence", Intelligence, vol 31, (2003) 343–397)

External links

Further reading

  • Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic, 1983

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