Categorising Human Intelligence: The Triarchic Theory
Since the birth of psychology as a discipline, and long before the arrival of tests such as the international IQ test, scientists and philosophers have striven to understand and categorise the nature of human intelligence.
It was clear, even from the earliest days, that intelligence couldn’t come down to one single factor: those who excelled at creative problem solving, for example, might struggle with everyday numeracy. As such, many distinct theories have arisen across the centuries – most prominently in the 20th century – in an effort to deepen the understanding of the types of intelligence prevalent in the majority of the populace.
Intelligence Theories and International IQ Tests
In 1988, the psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed his triarchic theory of intelligence, which has gone on to become one of the most widely-embraced answers to questions regarding how intelligence might be categorised. Sternberg believed that intelligence can be composed of three distinct types: the practical, the analytical, and the creative.
While an international IQ test may not be able to help individuals understand which of Sternberg’s categories they fall into (and indeed, most of us would fall into more than one at any given time), they undoubtedly play a key role in helping to gain perception of one’s unique intelligence.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Sternberg’s trio of intelligence types.
Commonly known as ‘street smarts’, Sternberg proposed that those in possession of practical intelligence would succeed in finding solutions to everyday problems, simply by applying experience-based knowledge.
Interestingly, this type of intelligence tends to be completely separate from traditional understandings based upon an international IQ test. Indeed, those with high levels of practical intelligence may or may not see comparable scores when it comes to international IQ test results.
This type of intelligence is usually aligned with computations and academic problem solving, and is demonstrated by an ability to evaluate, compare, contrast, and analyse. For example, those with high levels of analytical intelligence would find it relatively simple to understand the motives and intentions of a character in a novel, or might find analysing various aspects of a mathematical problem easier than others.
Inventive, imaginative, and able to think outside the box when it comes to problem solving, those in possession of creative intelligence will typically come to novel solutions to unexpected problems, or will be able to produce compelling works of art and fiction.
Think, for example, of the following situation. You’re at a party with your friends, and want to share a bottle of wine… but have forgotten to bring a corkscrew. Someone with creative intelligence would be able to successfully uncork the bottle without spoiling the wine, by arriving at a creative solution to the issue at hand.