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Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Intelligence

  • 0:06 Examples and Definition
  • 1:05 Practical Intelligence
  • 2:05 Creative Intelligence
  • 3:17 Analytical Intelligence
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

This lesson will help you understand the triarchic theory and the three types of intelligence proposed by Robert Sternberg: analytical, creative, and practical.

Examples and Definition

Anne is considered smart by all of her friends. She typically understands how to navigate any environment she is in and makes good judgment calls. In other words, she makes good decisions and uses common sense.

Mark likes new challenges. He enjoys figuring out puzzles and trying new things. His friends always come to him when they need a creative approach a new situation.

Beth can process and organize information very effectively. She is an expert at analyzing material and uses this talent to obtain high grades in school and high scores on standardized tests.

These three examples exemplify Robert Sternberg's triarchic theory on intelligence. The triarchic theory describes three distinct types of intelligence that a person can possess. Sternberg calls these three types practical intelligence, creative intelligence, and analytical intelligence.

Practical Intelligence

Practical intelligence relates to how you react to your environment and your ability to adapt to it or change it to suit your needs. Practical intelligence is the ability to thrive in the real world. You might compare practical intelligence to common sense or street smarts. It involves the ability to understand how to deal with everyday tasks. If you were analyzing someone's level of practical intelligence, you might ask yourself questions like: How does this person relate to the world around them? Are they adept at dealing with everyday experiences? Could someone take advantage of this person easily?

Let's look at an example using Anne. She wants to purchase a used car. Anne doesn't want to be taken advantage of, so she is prepared with price comparisons and doesn't let the salesman talk her into purchasing any unnecessary extras. Because of this, she gets a better price than the person who bought a similar car the day before.

Creative Intelligence

Creative intelligence relates to the way a person approaches new information or a new task. You may also hear creative intelligence referred to as experiential intelligence. It involves a person's ability to apply their existing knowledge to new problems. If you were assessing a person's level of creative intelligence, you might ask questions like: How quickly can this person solve a new problem when presented with it? Can they automatically apply a new skill when they're presented with the problem again?

There are two categories of creative intelligence: novelty and automatization. Novelty concerns how a person reacts the first time they encounter something new. Automatization concerns how a person learns to perform repeated tasks automatically.

Our friend Mark demonstrates skill daily in both of these categories. Mark is a spy. He often has to quickly come up with new plans to address the situations he's placed in. Part of the reason he can do this so adeptly is because of his ability to easily reapply ideas he has used before to new situations.

Analytical Intelligence

Analytical intelligence relates to how a person processes and analyzes information. You may also hear analytical intelligence referred to as componential intelligence. You could also think of analytical intelligence as book smarts since it is similar to traditional definitions of IQ and academic achievement.

There are three components to analytical intelligence: executive components, performance components, and knowledge acquisition components. Executive components are used for analyzing and choosing strategies for solving problems. Executive components control our cognitive processing. In other words, they tell the other components what to do. You may also hear the term metacomponents associated with executive components.

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