Vollmer Fries Lecture Series: Robert J. Sternberg, Professor of Human Development, Cornell University

 

Vollmer Fries Lecture Series: Robert J. Sternberg, Professor of Human Development, Cornell University

EMPAC Studio Beta

April 20, 2016 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

In a children’s book, Professor Wormbog searches all over the world for a Zipperump-a-Zoo, which turns out to be hiding in plain sight.  In my career studying intelligence, I have searched for an understanding of the construct of intelligence, which also hides in plain sight.  It is there in almost all of our daily interactions for all of us to see.  The main point of my talk is that as a scientific career progresses, not only do the problems one studies change, but also the questions one asks become increasingly broad and deep.  In my own career, early answers to scientific questions seem not so much wrong as incomplete or actually answers to the wrong questions.  In my early work on componential analysis, I constructed cognitive and mathematical models of intelligence, believing that the problem with traditional research was that it started from the standpoint of individual differences rather than of cognitive processes.  But I found that the universe of processes I was examining was incomplete.  So I broadened the scope of what I studied, looking not only at analytical processes, but also at creative and practical ones as well. Then later I came to believe that what mattered as much as one’s information processing was one’s skill in capitalizing on strengths and in compensating or or correcting weaknesses—in other words, one’s understanding of one’s mental processing was at least as important as the mental processing itself.  Later, I came to realize that the processes that matter in adaptation depend very much on the natural and cultural contexts in which one lives.  But then still later I concluded that my universe of processes was still too narrow because I failed to incorporate wisdom. I came to believe that intelligent people not only can be foolish, but also are especially susceptible to foolishness.  If civilization destroys itself—whether through terrorism, global warming, failed antibiotics, or whatever—it will not be for lack of intelligence but rather for lack of wisdom. 

 

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