2017 William James Fellow

Robert J. Sternberg

Cornell University


Robert Sternberg is a renowned figure in the research of human intelligence. His triarchic theory of intelligence transformed the field’s study of intellectual capacity from a psychometric to a more cognitive approach. By distinguishing intelligence into three parts—analytical, creative, and practical—he developed a testing instrument to identify people who are gifted in ways that IQ and other standardized tests don’t capture. That has led to the concept he calls “successful intelligence,” which views intelligence beyond academic knowledge to goal-directed action and real-world problem solving.

Sternberg has tested and supported his intelligence theories using reaction-time analysis, cultural analysis, factor analysis, correlational analysis, predictive analysis, and instructional analysis, among other methods. His insights have had relevance for teaching, university admissions policy, our understanding of developmental processes, and the prediction of leadership potential.

Sternberg’s impact can be measured by the numerous citations to his work found in texts on cognitive psychology, psychological testing, educational psychology, and industrial and organizational psychology. His prolific efforts in bringing theories, methods, and applications together in landmark handbooks and other publications have advanced our ability to facilitate human achievement.