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Toward a triarchic theory of human intelligence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2010

Robert J. Sternberg
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Conn. 06520

Abstract

This article is a synopsis of a triarchic theory of human intelligence. The theory comprises three subtheories: a contextual subtheory, which relates intelligence to the external world of the individual; a componential subtheory, which relates intelligence to the individual's internal world; and a two-facet subtheory, which relates intelligence to both the external and internal worlds. The contextual subtheory defines intelligent behavior in terms of purposive adaptation to, shaping of, and selection of real-world environments relevant to one's life. The normal course of intelligent functioning in the everyday world entails adaptation to the environment; when the environment does not fit one's values, aptitudes, or interests, one may attempt to shape the environment so as to achieve a better person-environment fit; when shaping fails, an attempt may be made to select a new environment that provides a better fit. The two-facet subtheory further constrains this definition by regarding as most relevant to the demonstration of intelligence contextually intelligent behavior that involves either adaptation to novelty, automatization of information processing, or both. Efficacious automatization of processing allows allocation of additional resources to the processing of novelty in the environment; conversely, efficacious adaptation to novelty allows automatization to occur earlier in one's experience with new tasks and situations. The componential subtheory specifies the mental mechanisms responsible for the learning, planning, execution, and evaluation of intelligent behavior. Metacomponents of intelligence control one's information processing and enable one to monitor and later evaluate it; performance components execute the plans constructed by the metacomponents; knowledge-acquisition components selectively encode and combine new information and selectively compare new information to old so as to allow new information to be learned.

Type
Target article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

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