Meta-Intelligence: Understanding, Control, and Coordination of Higher Cognitive Processes

  • Robert J. Sternberg (Autor/in)
    College of Human Ecology, Cornell University


Higher cognitive processes are often characterized as fitting into categories that, while treated as natural kinds, actually are human-made inventions, such as intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. Other germane categories include reasoning, problem solving, and concept formation. The different categories generate their own journals, their own tests, their own training programs, and, of course, their own cadres of researchers who specialize in one (or, more rarely, more than one) of the categories. I suggest in this article that the mental structures and processes underlying these various categories are largely the same. For example, all of them require metacomponents, or executive processes, such as recognizing the existence of problems, defining the nature of problems, formulating strategies to solve problems, and so forth. Their utilization also requires certain attitudes. What differs is the purpose to which processes and attitudes are utilized. In intelligence, the processes and attitudes are used primarily for knowledge acquisition, utilization, and analysis. In creativity, the processes and attitudes are used to generate new, useful ideas. In wisdom, the processes and attitudes are used to seek a common good. The arbitrariness of these separate categories serves artificially to isolate related theoretical and empirical work that should integrate intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. In this article, I discuss how the construct of meta-intelligence helps bring unity to theory and research endeavors that are now viewed as being largely independent of each other.