Sternberg Robert

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Robert Jeffrey Sternberg (born December 8, 1949), is an American psychologist.

Major Contributions

  • Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence
  • Several influential theories related to creativity, wisdom, thinking styles, love and hate
  • Author of over 1000 books, book chapters and articles

Triarchic Theory of (Successful) Intelligence

Dr. Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of (Successful) Intelligence contends that intelligent behavior arises from a balance between analytical, creative and practical abilities, and that these abilities function collectively to allow individuals to achieve success within particular sociocultural contexts (Sternberg, 1988, 1997, 1999). Analytical abilities enable the individual to evaluate, analyze, compare and contrast information. Creative abilities generate invention, discovery, and other creative endeavors. Practical abilities tie everything together by allowing individuals to apply what they have learned in the appropriate setting. To be successful in life the individual must make the best use of his or her analytical, creative and practical strengths, while at the same time compensating for weaknesses in any of these areas. This might involve working on improving weak areas to become better adapted to the needs of a particular environment, or choosing to work in an environment that values the individual's particular strengths. For example, a person with highly developed analytical and practical abilities, but with less well-developed creative abilities, might choose to work in a field that values technical expertise but does not require a great deal of imaginative thinking. Conversely, if the chosen career does value creative abilities, the individual can use his or her analytical strengths to come up with strategies for improving this weakness. Thus, a central feature of the triarchic theory of successful intelligence is adaptability-both within the individual and within the individual's sociocultural context (Cianciolo & Sternberg, 2004).

Sternberg’s typological conception

Styles are propensities rather than abilities: they are ways of directing the intellect that an individual finds comfortable. Children differ with respect to styles – or the ways in which they prefer to use their intelligence. Various styles are not good or bad, only different.

“I will draw on my own theory of thinking styles, which I refer to as a theory of “mental self-government”. At the heart of my theory is the notion that people need somehow to govern or manage their everyday activities” (Sternberg, 2004).

“The basic idea is that we must organize or govern ourselves, and the ways in which we do correspond to the kinds of governments and government branches that exist world-wide legislative, executive, judicial, monarchic, hierarchic, oligarchic, anarchic…” There are 13 styles under five categories: functions, forms, levels, scope, and leanings.

Comparison of system of types of Sternberg and Psycosmology

Before comparing the systems of cognitive types by R.Sternberg and in Psycosmology, we’ll make the following reminder. One of the important characteristics, used for distinguishing the personality types in psychology is the preference,( predominance) or equality in actualization and using different abilities, but not the level of development of every ability or personality trait, though the latter sometimes also takes place (clever or not clever, strong-willed or weak-willed etc.), but mostly in “common sense” psychology.

Many well known types singled out and described in psychology such as, for instance, visual, auditory and kinesthetic, or verbal and image representational, or impulsive (emotional) and reflexive (intellectual) and a lot of others are examples of types distinguished by the preference in using different perceptual systems, or in operating with different representations -images, words, symbols, or in prevailing different psychological functions (intellect, will, emotions) and so on. The cognitive types by Sternberg and in Psycosmology are established the same way.

Let’s now compare the presented above five groups (categories) of characteristics of the cognitive processes, suggested by R.Sternberg, on the bases of which he singled out 13 styles (types) of cognition with the charecteristics of cognition, on the ground of which the system of types in Psycosmology is constructed.


Under the first category, called “functions” R.Sternberg distinguishes three styles of cognition according to the preferred kinds of activity ,metaphorically named legislative, executive and judicial, that really are creation, execution and evaluation. Each of this kinds of activity is either predominantly creative production (likes creating…), or reproduction ( likes writing on assigned topics, do artwork from models etc.) or approximately equally creative and reproductive (likes evaluating etc.) In Psycosmology these characteristics are not used for the types differentiation, but enter the descriptions of the individual features of cognition in general and creativity in particular in reference to each type within the system of types in Psycosmology.


The second category comprises four styles of cognition singled out on the basis of preferring certain of working with several problems within a given period of time. The styles are: monarchic (likes to do one thing at a time….), hierarchic (likes to do many things at once…),oligarchic (likes to do many things at once, but has trouble setting priorities), anarchic (likes to take a random approach to problems, dislikes systems…) By the author’s elaborating descriptions of these styles it is possible to treat them as similar to rational and irrational types in Psycosmology, distinguished by prevailing or equally dominant either logical, deductive operations (rational cognition) or direct seeing (perception) and guessing (intuition)- irrational cognition). We think, that two styles – monarchic and hierarchic are rational, one style – anarchic is irrational and one style – oligarchic is with equal dominance of rational and irrational cognition. Besides, in Psycosmology the rational and irrational types are subdivided into varieties by the orientation on the World (mainly thinking and logical when rational or intuitive when irrational) or on the Self (mainly emotional when rational and sensational when irrational). The mentioned varieties of the rational (monarchic and hierarchic), irrational (anarchic) and equally rational/irrational (oligarchic) types of cognition in the system of types by R.Sternberg are not singled out. Note: The varieties of rational and irrational types, distinguished on the ground of orientation on “The World” or “The Self” in Psycosmology, corresponds to logical and emotional varieties of rational types and sensational and intuitive varieties of irrational types in the system of types by K. Jung.


The third category – levels. Two styles are distinguished under this category by the preference in working with general or concrete knowledge. One of the two styles is global (likes to deal with big picture, generalities, abstractions), the second style – local (likes to deal with details, specific, concrete examples). In Psycosmology this differentiation of preferences in cognition is taken into account in descriptions of other cognitive and personality features , that are derivatives from every cognitive type.


Category four – scope. Here also two styles are singled out. One called internal (Likes to work alone, focus inward, be self-sufficient), the other called external (likes to work with others, focus outward, be interdependent). These two styles correspond, to a certain extent, to intravertive and extravertive types by C.Jung . They are as well taken into account in Psycosmology in descriptions of characteristics of cognition as derivatives of the main types.


Category five – leaning. This category comprises two cognitive styles according to the prevailing of two different ways of activity - liberal (likes to do things in new ways, defy conventions) and conservative (likes to do things in tried and true ways, follow conventions). The liberal style is really a preference of creative ways of cognition and the conservative style is preference of reproductive ways of cognition. The styles, belonging to this category, in our opinion, are actually very much alike the styles of the first category. As we mentioned above, the legislative style is based on preferring creating novelties, that is preferring creative activity. The executive style is based on preference of using everything already existing and created before by other people, that is actually reproductive activity. The judging style can be based on either creative or reproductive activity depending on the objects and conditions being evaluated. About the place of these styles in Psycosmology see the comments to the first category of styles, given above.


In Psycosmology it is accepted, that the types can not be changed, but besides the dominating ways of activity, every person has all other abilities, which are less preferred and developed. In this connection, there is an important task to make people become aware of the existence of these “weak” abilities and develop them in education, as well as to take styles into account, when dealing with interaction of different people (teachers and students, members of families etc.) and possibly providing for their correspondence to the problems, being solved, that is in agreement with the opinion of R. Sternberg.

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