Triarchic Theory of Intelligence from Sternberg

In the triarchic theory of intelligence of Sternberg, the author describes three types of intelligence: analytical, creative and practical. Each of them is related to a very specific aspect.

Share Give it a Spin!
Follow by Email

Despite the fact that almost all of us believe that the concept of intelligence is clear, many have been its definitions throughout history. Many experts have developed a theory about intelligence, such as Binet, Weschler, Spearman, Catell or Sternberg, among others.

In this case, let’s focus on the perspective of Robert Sternberg, a psychologist and professor at Yale University. Sternberg defines intelligence from the point of view of cognitive psychology as “the mental activity directed towards the intentional adaptation, selection or transformation of real world environments relevant to one’s life”.

In this way, we can say that Sternberg conceives of intelligence as a relation of the individual with the context at the cognitive level with the objective of both adapting to it and transforming it, depending on the circumstance.

However, the author went much further and developed a theory known as the triarchic theory of intelligence, according to which there are three types of intelligence:

  • Analytical intelligence
  • Creative intelligence
  • Practical intelligence

“Only intelligence examines itself.”

-Jaime Balmes-

Fundamental aspects of the triarchic theory of intelligence

As we have said, Sternberg talks about three types of intelligence: analytical, creative and practical. Each of them is part of three partial sub-theories that complement each other: the componential, the experiential and the contextual.

“A wise man will look for more opportunities than those presented to him.”

-Francis Bacon-

We will now turn to the description of Elizabeth, J.R. and Gregorio, P. (2008) to develop and explain Sternberg’s theory. Let’s deepen.

The relationship of intelligence with the internal world of the individual: the components of intelligence

The triarchic theory of the intelligence describes the relation of the intelligence with the internal world of the individual through the components or mental processes that are implied in the thought. These components are of three types:

  • Metacomponents: these are the executive processes used to plan, control and evaluate the solution of problems or tasks.
  • Execution components: these are the lowest level processes of all those involved in implementing or executing the commands of the metacomponents.
  • Components of knowledge acquisition: are those processes used, first of all, to learn to solve problems.

These types of components are highly interdependent and together they form what the author calls analytical intelligence.

The relationship of intelligence with individual experience: facets of human intelligence
The three types of information processing components apply to tasks and situations that vary in terms of individual experience levels with them. When a task is presented for the first time is novel, but through successive experiences is automated.

This type of intelligence is what Sternberg calls creative intelligence.

The context of intelligence: functions of mental self-government

In this theory, the daily intelligence, that of each day, is defined as the selection and modification of the real world environments that are relevant in our life and for our aptitudes, always under an adaptive purpose.

First the adaptation is chosen and, if this fails, the selection or molding is chosen. It is the last type of intelligence defined by Sternberg in his theory: practical intelligence.

“Someone intelligent learns from the experience of others.”


The intelligent person looks for the experience he wants to perform

We wanted to highlight this beautiful phrase by Aldous Huxley because it relates the intelligence with the personal desire of each one of us. Something that should be taken into account in the educational field. In fact, one of the main objectives of this context should be the search and development of multiple intelligence, emotional intelligence and triarchic intelligence.

These intelligences are the main factors that help us generate and develop emotional, cognitive and many more skills that are lethargic on many occasions in each one of us.

The fact that we can have theories about intelligence that provide us with different methods of studyingit can be very useful to us, provided we use them correctly. Moreover, if education professionals are aware of them, it would be highly recommended to use them in educational contexts, so that, later, they can be applied on a day-to-day basis.