The Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory on Intelligence

Sternberg’s Triarchic theory explains how intelligence can be seen as the ability to be successful in life based on one’s standards and sociocultural context. It can be seen as the ability to capitalize on strength whilst compensating for weakness. Sternberg’s theory proposes a theory of human intelligence that adopts information processing components.

Assessment of Intelligence

Sternberg’s triarchic theory contained three sub-topic which include; Analytic, Creative, and Practical theory.

Analytical Theory

This is also known as componential intelligence. He believed that analytical intelligence depended on a series of meta-components and performance components and knowledge acquisition components. It refers to the components of intelligence’s ability to perform analysis, evaluation, and judgment. And also be able to compare or contrast. It is applied to situations where the problems arising are relatively familiar and the judgments to be pronounced are of a fairy abstract nature.

Earlier research was conducted to understand how analytical intelligence worked and how it could be used to solve analytical problems like analogies or syllogisms with response times disintegrated to offer their underlying information–processing components (Guyote and Sternberg, 1981).

The basis of the research was to have an in-depth understanding of the origin of information processing of individual differences in the componential aspect of human intelligence. With the analytical analysis, it would become easier to pinpoint the exact sources of individual differences.

Sternberg’s triarchic theory supposes three components of analytic intelligence. They include:


Meta-components or executive processes are a higher-order mental process that helps plan what we do, monitor the things as we are doing them, and evaluate what we have done after they have been done. They also help in the activation of performance and learning components which provided feedback to the meta-components. (Sternberg, 1987). The meta-components are used for making decisions, recognition, strategy selection, mental representation selection, allocation of mental resources, evaluation, and monitoring.

Performance Components

The meta-components help to assemble strategies while the performance components help to execute the strategies. They are also called lower-order processes involved in intellectual activities. The performance components follow the plans laid down by the meta-component. They perform basic processes like encoding, comparison, combination, and response. They help to hold information in the short term memory, encode stimuli, retrieve information from long term memory, compare diverse stimuli mentally, and perform calculations.

Knowledge Acquisition Components

They are lower-order processes that are used to learn how to tackle and solve problems, acquire knowledge and use the knowledge to solve problems. There are three types of selectivity involved in the knowledge acquisition components, and they include selective encoding, selective combination, and comparison (Sternberg and Davidson, 1999).

Selective encoding involves examining closely and separating relevant information from irrelevant ones. The selective combination involves selecting information from individual pieces to form a unified whole piece. The selective comparison involves examining newly acquired information and comparing it to the previously acquired information.

Creative Intelligence

This is also known as experimental intelligence. The creative intelligence tests contained a wide range of problems. This showed that when a person begins to tap the sources of individual differences measured by little or no tests if such person goes above his range of unconventionality of the conventional tests of intelligence. Creative intelligence assesses how well an individual can cope with problems.

This intelligence involves synthesis, insights, and the ability to react to novel situations and stimuli. This involves the experimental part of intelligence and shows how an individual can connect the internal world to the external world.

Practical Intelligence

This refers to individuals applying their abilities to the problems they face daily. Such as in the office or at home. Practical intelligence is also referred to as contextual intelligence. This sub theory reflects how individuals can relate to the external world around him or them. How individuals can understand and grasps others to deal with their everyday tasks and challenges.

In practical intelligence, individuals apply the components of intelligence to:

a. Adapt to; this refers to changing certain aspects of your elf so that you can suit and be compatible with the new changes in the environment.

b. Shape; the environment is changed to suit oneself.

c. Select the environment; search for another environment that will better suit your abilities, needs, and desires.

How to measure practical intelligence:

• Ability to write effective memos

• Sternberg multidimensional abilities test measures all three intelligence

• Ability to motivate people.

Sternberg believes that an individual might be considered intelligent in one environment and unintelligent in another environment. He identified eight operations used in problem-solving.

a. Recognition of the existence of the problem.

b. The decision on the nature of the problem.

c. Selection of the lower order processes needed to solve the problem

d. Selection of a strategy that will be used to combine them.

e. Selection of a mental representation on which strategy can act.

f. Allocation of a person’s mental resources.

g. Monitoring a person’s problem solving as it is taking place.

h. Evaluation of a person’s problem solving after it has happened.

Why intelligent people fail:

a. No motivation

b. Fear of failure

c. Procrastination

d. Lack of confidence

e. Low self-esteem

The componential sub theory is a theory of intelligence that describes the various cognitive processes underlying problem solving which gives a better understanding of how information is processed while solving problems.

The triarchic theory helps to bridge the gap between research and intelligence in solving problems. However, the theory examined analogical problem solving as a criterion for intelligent behaviour and not as a cognitive tool used for learning or acquiring new information.

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