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Advances in Culture and PsychologyVolume Two$
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Michele J. Gelfand, Chi-yue Chiu, and Ying-yi Hong

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199840694

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199840694.001.0001

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Intelligence in Its Cultural Context

Intelligence in Its Cultural Context

Chapter:
(p.205) Chapter 5 Intelligence in Its Cultural Context
Source:
Advances in Culture and Psychology
Author(s):

Robert J. Sternberg

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199840694.003.0005

This contribution argues that intelligence must be understood in its cultural context. In particular, conceptions of intelligence that are proposed acontextually are largely meaningless. The article makes four major points. First, conceptions of intelligence—implicit theories—vary widely from one culture to another. Any culture that “etically” seeks to impose its definition of intelligence on another does so at the risk of cultural imperialism, because there is no a priori reason to believe that any one culture’s conception of what intelligence is has some kind of privilege. Second, what constitutes adaptive and hence intelligent behavior also can differ widely from one culture to another. The same behavior that is intelligent in one culture may be indifferent or even unintelligent in another. Third, not all aspects of intelligence are culturally relative. The same processes—for example, defining problems and devising strategies to solve those problems—are common, but the contents to which these processes are applied and how the processes are evaluated as more or less intelligent differs cross-culturally. Fourth, for the world to survive, all cultures need to incorporate wisdom into broad conceptions of intelligence.

Keywords:   intelligence, culture, wisdom, adaptation, theory of successful intelligence

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