Sternberg, Robert J(effrey) 1949-
Robert Jeffrey Sternberg was born on December 8, 1949, in Newark, New Jersey. He received his B.A. in psychology from Yale University in 1972, under the mentorship of Endel Tulving; and his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1975, where he worked with Gordon Bower. After completion of his dissertation, Sternberg began his professional career at Yale University, where he remained for 30 years. Sternberg's career at Yale was extremely productive and resulted in the publication of more than 1,200 scientific and popular works and the establishment of the Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE Center) in
2000. In 2005 Sternberg and the PACE Center relocated to Tufts University, where Sternberg accepted the positions of dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of psychology.
Sternberg held many elected offices in professional organizations, including president of the American Psychological Association. He led as editor two major professional journals of the American Psychological Association, and served as associate editor, consulting editor, or member of the editorial board of more than 30 other psychological and educational journals. Sternberg's work has been recognized by honorary doctoral degrees from eight universities throughout the world and by 25 scholarly prizes and awards.
Sternberg has collaborated and published with a number of distinguished scientists, both senior (Endel Tulving and Gordon Bower) and peer (e.g., Douglas Detterman, Paul Ackerman and Howard Gardner). He also has a remarkable track record of publishing with his numerous current and former students, enhancing, stimulating, and promoting their careers.
The research of Robert Sternberg is extremely diverse, spanning the fields of cognitive, educational, personality, abnormal, and organizational psychology. In educational psychology, the main focus of his research has been the implications for teachers and students of individual differences in cognition and learning. For educators, the two most important theories are the theory of successful intelligence (also known as the triarchic theory of intelligence) and the theory of mental self government (also known as the theory of thinking styles).
The theory of successful intelligence defines intelligence as the ability of individuals to succeed in life by capitalizing on their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.
According to Sternberg, abilities cannot be reduced to a single general measure of intelligence but should be developed and assessed in a multi-faceted manner. He defines three fundamental cognitive abilities; hence the original name triarchic theory of intelligence. Analytical abilities are needed for analyzing, evaluating, judging, comparing, and contrasting. Creative abilities are called for when there is a need to generate new knowledge. Practical abilities are required for the application and use of knowledge. The psychological building blocks of these abilities are the same, but individuals may demonstrate both integrated and uneven profiles across these dimensions. The theory of successful intelligence has been the subject of a wide range of studies. These range from the development and validation of the theory (see, for example, Sternberg, 1980) to application of the theory to college admission policies (e.g., Sternberg et al., 2006).
The theory of mental self-government postulates the presence of styles of thinking (or mental government) that form psychological bridges between individuals' intelligence and personalities. Sternberg differentiates 13 different styles of thinking. The primary types of styles are legislative, judicial, and executive, matching the three major functions of government. There are also four forms of styles (anarchic, oligarchic, monarchic, and hierarchic); two levels (liberal and conservative); two focuses (extra- and intro) and two dimensions (local and global). His empirical work validates the importance of recognizing the existence of different styles of thinking among both teachers and students to maximize the effectiveness of teaching and learning.
At the later stages of his career, Sternberg became interested in wisdom and developed an all-encompassing framework that embraces various components of his work; this framework is referred to as Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized (WISC).
Sternberg's work has penetrated and influenced the field of education at all levels—research, practice and policy. His prolific writing has generated widespread attention and all contemporary textbooks in psychology and education mention his theoretical and empirical research.
Sternberg, R. J. (1980). Sketch of a componential subtheory of human intelligence. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3, 573–584.
Sternberg, R. J. (1996). Successful intelligence. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Thinking styles. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sternberg, R. J., & Rainbow Project Collaborators (2006). The Rainbow Project: Enhancing the SAT through assessments of analytical, practical and creative skills. Intelligence, 34, 321–350.
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