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Successful Intelligence: How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine Success in Life [Paperback]

Robert J. Sternberg
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct 1997
Argues that creative and practical intelligence, rather than the results of a standard IQ test, are the keys to succeeding in the business world and doing well at most jobs.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Plume Books (Oct 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452279062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452279063
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,085,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars think beyond the 'trite' 2 May 2010
Format:Paperback
Sternberg offers some thought provoking ideas in a very readable form which can be creatively engaged with by teachers and others to contribute to their development of their educational practice, provision and theory. I read it when it first came out and continue to dip into it periodically.
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0 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars mediocre and trite 8 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Not convincing. Repetitive.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insights and Padding 12 Jun 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a strange hybrid: part informal discussion of flaws in intelligence testing, part autobiography, part self-help manual. Many of Professor Sternberg's criticisms of IQ testing are right on target, but his argument is diffuse and interlarded with the same personal anecdotes told over and over. We hear a great deal about his own poor IQ scores in elementary school, how his son Seth exhibits creative intelligence, how his talented grad students' careers were hobbled by poor test scores. It concludes with his definition of true intelligence (what he calls "successful intelligence"), which is basically a catch-all category for common sense or street smarts (what Howard Gardner calls "interpersonal intelligence") and self-discipline. The traits of successful intelligence turn out to be rather obvious: Successfully intelligent people know when to perservere; successfully intelligent people seek to surmount personal difficulties; successfully intelligent people are self-confident but not cocky and can delay gratification in order to achieve long-term goals; etc., etc. All very true, and all very old.
Still, the book has enough interesting remarks on the history and errors of intelligence testing to make it worth reading. If Professor Sternberg had organized the book a little better and eliminated some of the redundancies, I would have given it four or five stars. As it is, I give it three.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only fair, not as good as Sternberg's "The Triarchic Mind" 30 Oct 2006
By T. Faranda - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Quite a few years ago - at least ten - I read another book by Yale pyschologist Robert Sternberg on intelligence, entitled "The Triarchic Mind". It was excellent, as he criticized standard IQ testing and put forth his own broader definition of intelligence, which he defined as "mental self-management."

So I was looking forward to this follow-up book, "Successful Intelligence." Unfortunately it was not near as good as his first book.

The book is too long - it's almost as if his publisher told him to flesh it out with discussion of the defects of intelligence tests and personal anecdotes from his own life and that of his children. There are too many of these analyses and anecdotes. He could have cut the book by at least a third. And at times the book is more of a self-help manual - focus on goals, be persistent, identify problems. As another reviewer on Amazon said, perhaps he should have titled the book "Successful Abilities."

Certainly his theory that there are three components of intelligence - the analytic, the creative, and the practical makes lots of sense. And too much emphasis may be put on the analytic element, because it is most easily tested in so-called intelligence tests. Sternberg makes a good case for that, showing that there is not much correlation between the ability to score highly on these types of tests, and ultimate success in business and professional areas (some correlation, but it's pretty underwhelming).

All in all, if you are interested in a good book on intelligence, I recommend Sternberg's first book "The Triarchic Mind" and give this one a miss.
38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IQ isn't everything...but you knew that already, didn't you? 15 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Much more informed and lucid than "other success" books on the market. Sternberg balances his own experiences with concise research into the field of human achievement. Much of what he says comes across as familiar, i.e. the "academically average " grad student who amazes her professors with an abundance of job offers (apparently, the author implies, due to her "practical intelligence" skills).
Nevertheless, in an age where analytical IQ is deemed more important than creative and practical skills, Sternberg's book serves as an inspiring reminder
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent discussion of the issues 18 Dec 2003
By magellan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
First, I should mention something of my own background. My academic background is in psychometrics and also neurobiology, where I did my master's and doctoral work. Sternberg is mostly preaching to the choir with me, as I agree with many of his criticisms about the deficiencies of current and past I.Q. tests.
That having been said, I am mostly okay current psychometric, statistical, and mathematical theory and practice here, as long as one understands the strengths and limitations of the various approaches. I understand those very well, but most people don't and tend to get hung up on one or another aspect of it without having a systematic grasp of all the psychometric issues. If it weren't for that, books like Sternberg's wouldn't be necessary.
Sternberg's definition of successful intelligence is pretty common-sensical, although more difficult to quantify than the abilities typical I.Q. tests measure, but I'm okay with that.
However, the bottom line is that the real answers about intelligence are eventually going to come from the brain research areas, which was my main field. The neurobiology doesn't contradict the psychometric approach but does complement it and provides a more rigorous basis for the idea of intelligence and what it consists of. To give you just a brief example of the neurological picture, the human brain contains 60 trillion nerve cells organized into 14,000 major and minor brain centers and pathways, and each nerve cell is connected to between 3,000 and 100,000 other neurons, producing a neural network and web of almost unbelievable compexity. And in the past 50 years, neuroscientists have made considerable progress in understanding the neural basis of intelligence and of higher cognitive abilities, such as language processing and spatial ability, which have been found to be located in the temporal lobe in the case of language processing, and in the right hemisphere in the case of left-hemispheric dominant people (which is most of us).
But getting back to Sternberg's concerns, the most egregious and widespread problem with I.Q. testing, of course, is that people hung up on a single I.Q. high or low test score, which might not mean much in isolation, and the system doesn't help that situation since it attaches too much credence to them without understanding the other factors, qualifications, and exceptions to a single I.Q. score that must be taken into account.
Sternberg also spends a lot of time discussing examples of people (such as himself), who don't do very well on standard I.Q. tests and about the baleful effect such scores had on their lives. Appropos of that, I can give two much more glaring examples than Sternberg himself, notwithstanding his being a Yale professor, which I am perfectly willing to concede is pretty impressive.
In the late teens and 1920s an important Stanford psychologist, Lewis Terman, tested thousands of California schoolchildren to identify those with high I.Q.'s and then to follow them throughout their lives, to see of the early promise of their intelligence was fulfilled. Terman ended up with a group of 1300 children, who he followed from their early years until their deaths. I would suspect many if not all would be dead by now. Until they had passed away, their files remained sealed, and only Terman and his group knew their actual identities.
Anyway, many did have impressive careers as writers, scientists, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals. Despite most of them growing up during the depression in the last century, many more of them went to college and onto professional and graduate school than the overall population. That having been said, the test had two major faults or oversights in terms of the selection process: the test, which was the Stanford-Binet, an important and widely used I.Q. test, missed the two Nobel Laureates in physics, Luis Alvarez, and William Shockley. Shockley is familiar to many as the famous inventor of the transistor. Both were tested but fell below the minimum of 140 or a score of 135 for a sibling to be included. And none of the other 1300 children won a Nobel Prize. Hence, the test missed the only two Nobel Laureates in the entire group.
Also, James Watson, of Watson and Crick fame, only has an I.Q. of 115, if I remember right, and is the co-discoverer of DNA, for which they shared a Nobel Prize back in the 50's.
So obviously, I.Q isn't the whole story. I have many stories myself of people who had much lower test scores than I on any of the standardized tests, whether I.Q., the SAT, the GRE, or whatever, who did just fine in college and grad school and who often got higher grades than I, and who went on to become more successful in real life too. So as I said, Sternberg is sort of preaching to the choir in my case, and overall, I tend to agree with him that I.Q. should not be the overriding determinant in the selection and educational process that it often is, at least not without taking into consideration other factors such as special aptitudes and talents, creative abilities, grades, work and real world experience, self-discipline and willingness to work hard, and so on.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very relevant and important ideas, but only an introduction. 30 Aug 2009
By Todd I. Stark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Leading intelligence researcher Robert Sternberg dedicates this book to the woman who turned his life around in the 4th grade, his teacher Mrs. Alexis. Bless her and teachers like her. She was the first one to have the sense to ignore his poor standardized test results and expect and encourage him to do better than the tests predicted. Sternberg's own career is a poignant and dramatic example of his own amazing discovery, that human capability is not a matter of fixed traits at all, contrary to what many have claimed based loosely on the programs of standardized testing and heritability research.

I picked up this little book in a bargain bin, and a bargain it truly was. Robert Sternberg is one of the great scholars of psychology research with a number of superb books on topics of fundamental importance like love, intelligence, success, and wisdom. These are not cute self-help books, they are mostly very readable scientific treatises that offer original technical models and expert analysis, and sometimes also include practical advice.

This book, Successful Intelligence, is not one of Sternberg's more technical books and definitely not among his best work from a technical perspective but it is one of his most relevant and important as far as its argument.

The thing I most want you to know about this book that it is a compelling argument for the importance of the dynamic ability to build on our strengths and compensate and correct for weaknesses.

The things that are fixed in human development are far less interesting and important to us that the things we can learn to build on to continually improve ourselves. If you already get that point, you may want to skip this introduction and go straight to his more technical books and others on metacognition, emotional intelligence, and so on that are in the same spirit as this book.

Sternberg's overall idea is a BIG deal because it is not now how education generally works. For example it is very much contrary to the major traditions of education in the United States: (1) the tradition of using standardized testing to predict ability, and (2) the anti-elitist tradition of presumably democratic equality that throws all students together as if they all learn the same way. This third philosophy of education is not wishful thinking, it is the result of analysis of real data about how people learn.

The book builds on Sternberg's formal triarchic model of intelligence, which sees mental power in terms of three things: analytic, creative, and practical intelligence, and our ability to make use of all three. Sternberg proposes that "successful intelligence" is the master quality that results from our learning to make best use of these three different kinds of ability. Successful intelligence is what really counts, according to Sternberg. And I think he makes his case convincingly.

Analytic intelligence is what psychometricians consider the g factor, the common factor among various cognitive subtests that tends to go up and down together. Analytic intelligence is what the application of IQ testing and other standardized testing for the prediction of outcomes is based upon. This is real, but we rely far too heavily on it. Analytic intelligence lets us solve problems and judge the quality of ideas. It is what lets us perceive patterns in complexity. It is often used to predict further test taking ability and school performance and varyingly predicts some kinds of job performance. But what does that really tell us?

Where Sternberg agrees with the late Stephen Jay Gould's infamous critique in "Mismeasure of Man" is that correlation does not imply causation in this particular case. One of the central points of this book is the enormous gap between the very low to moderate ability these tests predict life outcomes and what people are actually able to do under the best conditions. Sternberg's emphasis is on what it takes to create the best conditions. It isn't clear that there is any way yet to manufacture enormous changes in analytic intelligence, but it is increasingly clear that boosting IQ should not be our main concern regarding human intelligence, beyond simply ensuring that we have the best developmental environment.

Then there is creative intelligence, which we need in order to formulate good problems and ideas in the first place, to ask the right questions. Standardized testing does not measure this at all.

Then there is practical intelligence, which is the rich background each of us needs in order to apply ideas and analysis effectively in everyday life. This is not measured by standardized testing either.

The last chapter of the book consists of the high level skills we need in order to have successful intelligence and make best use of analytic, creative, and practical intelligence. There are 20 of these, which are frustratingly generic and mostly should be commonsense I think, but they are not emphasized in education very much and they give a good flavor of Sternberg's philosophy. These include:

Self-motivation skills,

Impulse control skills,

Knowing when and how to persevere,

Knowing how to make the most of your own abilities,

Knowing how to translate thought into action,

Learning to focus on the products of your efforts, not just the process,

Learning to both initiate and complete tasks and to follow-through,

Learning to get past fear of failure,

Learning to conquer procrastination

Willingness to accept fair blame for mistakes

Independence

Finding ways to surmount personal challenges

Learning to focus and concentrate to achieve goals

Learning to delay gratification

Learning to see both the forest and the trees

Reasonable self-confidence but not excessive (in contrast to the dismal failure of extreme versions of"self-esteem"psychology)

Learning to balance analytic, creative, and practical intelligence in thinking.

This is obviously not a curriculum, it is a direction. This is not a great book in terms of scholarship or details but it is a compelling introduction to the ideas. A wonderful, research-based philosophy based on human success and satisfaction. And a novel direction for education.
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