Write two discussion questions from article. Discussion questions should
neither be too specific (“What does the fourth word on p. 27 mean?”)
nor too general (“Was this a good article? Why or why not?”). Try to
strike a balance between the specific and general. Be sure to point the
reader to the specific content of the article that your question
addresses. Avoid questions with “yes/no” or “either/or” answers; good
discussion questions are open-ended. Also avoid leading questions. See
below for examples of good discussion questions. Example Discussion
Questions: 1. What negative consequences could result if parents followed Bem’s
suggestion to raise androgynous boys and girls? How might peers respond
to boys with stereotypically feminine characteristics and girls with
stereotypically masculine characteristics? What are the positive
consequences of raising androgynous boys and girls? Where does one draw
the line between a healthy de-emphasis on gender and a healthy
acknowledgment of gender in raising children? 2. Josephs, Markus, and Tafarodi argue that individuation
(distinguishing the self from others on the basis of talents or
accomplishments) does not serve as a significant source of esteem for
American women (because of gender-role socialization). How accurately
does their argument describe women in the U.S.? Explain your response.
How do women in the U.S. compare, in terms of how individualistic they
are, to men and women in Asian cultures? How does the pressure that
women feel in our society to be appropriately “feminine” interact with
the individualistic norms that all Americans experience?4_sternberg_grigorenko_2006.pdfGroup & Organization Management
Cultural Intelligence and Successful Intelligence
Robert J. Sternberg and Elena L. Grigorenko
Group Organization Management 2006; 31; 27
DOI: 10.1177/1059601105275255
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GROUP &Grigorenko
Cultural Intelligence
and Successful Intelligence
Yale University
Intelligence cannot be fully or even meaningfully understood outside its cultural context. Work
that seeks to study intelligence acontextually risks the imposition of an investigator’s view of the
world on the rest of the world. Moreover, work on intelligence within a single culture may fail to
do justice to the range of skills and knowledge that may constitute intelligence broadly defined
and risks drawing false and hasty generalizations. In this article, we consider the relevance of
culture to intelligence and its investigation, assessment, and development. We describe studies
from diverse continents, based on the theory of successful intelligence, that show the importance
of understanding intelligence in its cultural context and conclude that intelligence must be understood in such context.
Keywords: culture; intelligence; successful intelligence; cultural intelligence
Howard Dean is currently a candidate for nomination by the Democratic
Party for president of the United States. The startling success of this erstwhile
little known candidate derives, in part, from his willingness—unique among
the Democratic candidates—to criticize the current government of President
Bush, a Republican. His behavior is intelligent in the sense that it is moving
him toward his stated goal of getting elected. In another country, the same
behavior might get a candidate assassinated. It would not move the candidate
toward election but, rather, toward an early death.
What is considered intelligent clearly differs from one place to the next. Is
it smart or fatally stupid to criticize the existing regime publicly, for example? Yet researchers often do their research as though culture does not matter.
This research continues despite pervasive evidence that people in different
cultures think and act differently (e.g., Greenfield, 1997; Laboratory of
Comparative Human Cognition, 1982; Nisbett, 2003; Serpell, 2000; Super &
Harkness, 1986). Earley and Ang (2003) proposed a distinct cultural intelliThe research in this article was supported primarily by the Partnership for Child Development.
Group & Organization Management, Vol. 31 No. 1, February 2006 27-39
DOI: 10.1177/1059601105275255
© 2006 Sage Publications
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gence to account for differences across cultures. We seek to account for these
differences in terms of a theory of “successful intelligence” (Sternberg,
1997). Successful intelligence is the ability to achieve what one seeks in life,
within one’s sociocultural context, through a combination of adapting to,
shaping, and selecting environments, by a mix of analytical, creative, and
practical abilities. Successful intelligence is relevant across cultures because
in any cultural environment one has to figure out to adapt, shape (or select
out), and figure out how to achieve one’s goals within the sociocultural context. Successful intelligence is typically defined within a culture. Cultural
intelligence, in turn, applies more across cultures. Someone could be successfully intelligent within a culture but not across cultures. Someone could
be relatively successful across cultures but not highly successfully intelligence within any one of those cultures. Indeed, as Berry (1974) pointed out,
what is intelligent in one culture may be very different from what is intelligent in another.
The theory of successful intelligence considers implicit and explicit theories of intelligence.
In some cases, Western notions about intelligence are not shared by other
cultures. For example, at the mental level, the Western emphasis on speed of
mental processing (Sternberg, Conway, Ketron, & Bernstein, 1981) is not
shared in many cultures. Other cultures may even be suspicious of the quality
of work that is done very quickly.
Yang and Sternberg (1997a) reviewed Chinese philosophical conceptions
of intelligence. The Confucian perspective emphasizes the characteristic of
benevolence and of doing what is right. As in the Western notion, the intelligent person spends a great deal of effort in learning, enjoys learning, and persists in life-long learning with a great deal of enthusiasm. The Taoist tradition, in contrast, emphasizes the importance of humility, freedom from
conventional standards of judgment, and full knowledge of oneself as well as
of external conditions.
The difference between Eastern and Western conceptions of intelligence
may persist even in the present day. Yang and Sternberg (1997b) studied
contemporary Taiwanese Chinese conceptions of intelligence and found five
factors underlying these conceptions: (a) a general cognitive factor, much
like the g factor in conventional Western tests; (b) interpersonal intelligence
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(i.e., social competence); (c) intrapersonal intelligence; (d) intellectual selfassertion; and (d) intellectual self-effacement.
The factors uncovered in Taiwan differ substantially from those identified
in U.S. people’s conceptions of intelligence by Sternberg et al. (1981)—(a)
practical problem solving, (b) verbal ability, and (c) social competence—
although in both cases, people’s implicit theories of intelligence seem to go
quite far beyond what conventional psychometric intelligence tests measure.
Of course, comparing the Chen (1994) to the Sternberg et al. (1981) study
simultaneously varies in language and culture.
Studies in Africa, in fact, provide yet another window on the substantial
differences. Ruzgis and Grigorenko (1994) argued that, in Africa, conceptions of intelligence revolve largely around skills that help to facilitate and
maintain harmonious and stable intergroup relations; intragroup relations are
probably equally important and at times more important. It is difficult to separate linguistic differences from conceptual differences in cross-cultural
notions of intelligence. In our own research, we use converging operations to
achieve some separation; that is, we use different and diverse empirical operations to ascertain notions of intelligence. So we may ask in one study that
people identify aspects of competence, in another study, that they identify
competent people, and in a third study, that they characterize the meaning of
“intelligence,” and so on.
The emphasis on the social aspects of intelligence is not limited to African
cultures. Notions of intelligence in many Asian cultures also emphasize the
social aspect of intelligence more than does the conventional Western or IQbased notion (Azuma & Kashiwagi, 1987; Lutz, 1985; Poole, 1985; White,
It should be noted that neither African nor Asian notions emphasize exclusively social notions of intelligence. These conceptions of intelligence
much more emphasize social skills than do conventional U.S. conceptions of
intelligence, at the same time that they recognize the importance of cognitive
aspects of intelligence. In a study of Kenyan conceptions of intelligence
(Grigorenko et al., 2001), it was found that there are four distinct terms constituting conceptions of intelligence among rural Kenyans—rieko (knowledge and skills), luoro (respect), winjo (comprehension of how to handle
real-life problems), paro (initiative)—with only the first directly referring to
knowledge-based skills (including but not limited to the academic).
It is important to realize, again, that there is no one overall U.S. conception of intelligence. Indeed, Okagaki and Sternberg (1993) found that different ethnic groups in San Jose, California, had rather different conceptions of
what it means to be intelligent. For example, Latino parents of schoolchil-
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dren tended to emphasize the importance of social-competence skills in their
conceptions of intelligence, whereas Asian parents tended rather heavily to
emphasize the importance of cognitive skills. White parents also emphasized
cognitive skills. Teachers, representing the dominant culture, emphasized
cognitive- more than they did social-competence skills. The rank order of
children of various groups’ performance (including subgroups within the
Latino and Asian groups) could be perfectly predicted by the extent to which
their parents shared the teachers’ conception of intelligence. In other words,
teachers tended to reward those children who were socialized into a view of
intelligence that happened to correspond to the teachers’ own. Yet, as we
argue later, social aspects of intelligence, broadly defined, may be as important as or even more important than cognitive aspects of intelligence in later
life. Some, however, prefer to study intelligence not in its social aspect but in
its cognitive one.
Many times, investigations of intelligence conducted in settings outside
the developed world can yield a picture of intelligence that is quite at variance with the picture one would obtain from studies conducted only in the
developed world. In a study in Usenge, Kenya, near the town of Kisumu,
Sternberg and his colleagues were interested in schoolage children’s ability
to adapt to their indigenous environment. We devised a test of practical intelligence for adaptation to the environment (see Sternberg & Grigorenko,
1997; Sternberg et al., 2001). The test of practical intelligence measured children’s informal tacit knowledge for natural herbal medicines that the villagers believe can be used to fight various types of infections. At least some of
these medicines appear to be effective (F. Okatcha, personal communication,
1999), and most villagers certainly believe in their efficacy, as shown by the
fact that children in the villages use their knowledge of these medicines an
average of once a week in medicating themselves and others. Thus, tests of
how to use these medicines constitute effective measures of one aspect of
practical intelligence as defined by the villagers as well as their life circumstances in their environmental contexts. Middle-class Westerners might find
it quite a challenge to thrive or even survive in these contexts, or, for that
matter, in the contexts of urban ghettos often not distant from their
comfortable homes.
We measured the Kenyan children’s ability to identify the medicines,
where they come from, what they are used for, and how they are dosed. Based
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on work we had done elsewhere, we expected that scores on this test would
not correlate with scores on conventional tests of intelligence. To test this
hypothesis, we also administered to the 85 children the Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices Test (Raven, Court, & Raven, 1992), which is a measure of
fluid or abstract-reasoning-based abilities, as well as the Mill Hill Vocabulary Scale (Raven et al., 1992), which is a measure of crystallized or formalknowledge-based abilities. In addition, we gave the children a comparable
test of vocabulary in their own Dholuo language. The Dholuo language is
spoken in the home, English in the schools.
We did indeed find no correlation between the test of indigenous tacit
knowledge and scores on the fluid-ability tests. However, to our surprise, we
found statistically significant correlations of the tacit-knowledge tests with
the tests of crystallized abilities. The correlations, however, were negative.
In other words, the higher the children scored on the test of tacit knowledge,
the lower they scored, on average, on the tests of crystallized abilities. This
surprising result can be interpreted in various ways; however, based on the
ethnographic observations of the anthropologists on the team, Geissler and
Prince, we concluded that a plausible scenario takes into account the expectations of families for their children.
Many children drop out of school before graduation, for financial or other
reasons, and many families in the village do not particularly value formal
Western schooling. There is no reason they should, as the children of many
families will for the most part spend their lives farming or engaged in other
occupations that make little or no use of Western schooling. These families
emphasize teaching their children the indigenous informal knowledge that
will lead to successful adaptation in the environments in which they will
really live. Children who spend their time learning the indigenous practical
knowledge of the community generally do not invest themselves heavily in
doing well in school, whereas children who do well in school generally do
not invest themselves as heavily in learning the indigenous knowledge—
hence the negative correlations.
The Kenya study suggests that the identification of a general factor of
human intelligence may tell us more about how abilities interact with patterns of schooling and especially Western patterns of schooling than it does
about the structure of human abilities. In Western schooling, children typically study a variety of subject matters from an early age and thus develop
skills in a variety of skill areas. This kind of schooling prepares the children
to take a test of intelligence, which typically measures skills in a variety of
areas. Often intelligence tests measure skills that children were expected to
acquire a few years before taking the intelligence test. However, as Rogoff
(1990) and others have noted, this pattern of schooling is not universal and
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has not even been common for much of the history of humankind. Throughout history and in many places still, schooling, especially for boys, takes the
form of apprenticeships in which children learn a craft from an early age.
We have found related although certainly not identical results in a study
we did among Yup’ik Eskimo children in southwestern Alaska (Grigorenko
et al., 2004). We assessed the importance of academic and practical intelligence in rural and urban Alaskan communities. A total of 261 children were
rated for practical skills by adults or peers in the study: 69 in Grade 9, 69 in
Grade 10, 45 in Grade 11, and 37 in Grade 12. Of these children, 145 were
girls and 116 were boys, and they were from seven different communities,
six rural and one relatively urban. We measured academic intelligence with
conventional measures of fluid and crystallized intelligence. We measured
practical intelligence with a test of tacit knowledge as acquired in rural Alaskan Yup’ik communities. The urban children generally outperformed the
rural children on a measure of crystallized intelligence; however, the rural
children generally outperformed the urban children on the measure of
Yup’ik tacit knowledge. The test of tacit knowledge was superior to the tests
of academic intelligence in predicting practical skills of the rural children
(for whom the test was created), but not of the urban ones.
The test of practical intelligence developed for use in Kenya, as well as
some of the other practically based tests described in this article, may seem
more like tests of achievement or of developing expertise (see Ericsson,
1996) than of intelligence. However, it can be argued that intelligence is itself
a form of developing expertise—that there is no clear-cut distinction between the two constructs (Sternberg, 1998, 1999). Indeed, all measures of
intelligence, one might argue, measure a form of developing expertise.
An example of how tests of intelligence measure developing expertise
rather than some fixed quantity emanates from work Sternberg, Grigorenko,
and their colleagues have done in Tanzania. A study in Tanzania (see
Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1997, 2002; Sternberg et al., 2002) points out the
risks of giving tests, scoring them, and interpreting the results as measures of
some latent intellectual ability or abilities. We administered to 358 schoolchildren between ages 11 and 13 years near Bagamoyo, Tanzania, tests
including a form-board classification test, a linear syllogisms test, and a
Twenty Questions Test, which measure the kinds of skills required on conventional tests of intelligence. Of course, we obtained scores that they could
analyze and evaluate, ranking the children in terms of their supposed general
or other abilities. However, we administered the tests dynamically rather
than statically (Brown & Ferrara, 1985; Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1998;
Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2002; Tzuriel, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978). Dynamic
testing is similar to conventional static testing in that individuals are tested
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and inferences about their abilities made. However, dynamic tests differ in
that children are given some kind of feedback to help them improve their
scores. Vygotsky (1978) suggested that the children’s ability to profit from
the guided instruction the children received during the testing session could
serve as a measure of children’s zone of proximal development (ZPD), or the
difference between their developed abilities and their latent capacities. In
other words, testing and instruction are treated as being of one piece rather
than as being distinct processes. This integration makes sense in terms of traditional definitions of intelligence as the ability to learn (“Intelligence and Its
Measurement,” 1921; Sternberg & Detterman, 1986). What a dynamic test
does is directly measure processes of learning in the context of testing rather
than measuring these processes indirectly as the product of past learning.
Such measurement is especially important when not all children have had
equal opportunities to learn in the past.
In the assessments, children were first given the ability tests. Then they
were given a brief period of instruction in which they were able to learn skills
that would potentially enable them to improve their scores. Then they were
tested again. Because the instruction for each test lasted only about 5 to 10
min, one would not expect dramatic gains. Yet, on average, the gains were
statistically significant. More important, scores on the pretest showed only
weak although significant correlations with scores on the post-test. These
correlations, at about the 0.3 level, suggested that when tests are administered statically to children in developing countries, they may be rather unstable and easily subject to influences of training. The reason could be that the
children are not accustomed to taking Western-style tests and so profit
quickly even from small amounts of instruction as to what is expected from
them. Of course, the more important question is not whether the scores
changed or even correlated with each other, but rather how they correlated
with other cognitive measures. In other words, which test was a better predictor of transfer to other cognitive performance, the pretest score or the posttest
score? We found the posttest score to be the better predictor.
In interpreting results, whether from developed or developing cultures, it
is always important to take into account the physical health of the participants
one is testing. In a study we did in Jamaica (Sternberg, Powell, McGrane, &
McGregor, 1997), we found that Jamaican schoolchildren who suffered from
parasitic illnesses (for the most part, whipworm or Ascaris) did more poorly
on higher level cognitive tests (such as of working memory and reasoning)
than did children who did not suffer from these illnesses, even after controlling for socioeconomic status. Why might such a physical illness cause a deficit in higher level cognitive skills?
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Ceci (1996) showed that increased levels of schooling are associated with
higher IQ. Why would there by such a relation? Presumably, in part, because
schooling helps children develop the kinds of skills that are measured by IQ
tests, and that are important, in turn, for survival in school. Children with
whipworm-induced illnesses and related illnesses are less able to profit from
school than are children without these illnesses. Every day they go to school,
they are likely to be experiencing symptoms such as listlessness, stomachache, and difficulties in concentrating. These symptoms reduce the extent to
which they are able to profit from instruction and, in turn, reduce their ultimate performance on higher level cognitive tests.
The ideas studied in Kenya can be extended elsewhere. In one set of studies, Grigorenko and Sternberg (2001) tested 511 Russian schoolchildren
(ranging from age 8 to 17 years) as well as 490 mothers and 328 fathers of
these children. We used entirely distinct measures of analytical, creative, and
practical intelligence. Consider, for example, the tests used for adults. Similar tests were used for children.
Fluid analytical intelligence was measured by two subtests of a test of
nonverbal intelligence. The Test of g: Culture Fair, Level II (Cattell &
Cattell, 1973) is a test of fluid intelligence designed to reduce, as much as
possible, the influence of verbal comprehension, culture, and educational
level, although no test eliminates such influences. In the first subtest, Series,
individuals were presented with an incomplete, progressive series of figures.
The participants’ task was to select, from among the choices provided, the
answer that best continued the series. In the Matrices subtest, the task was to
complete the matrix presented at the left of each row. The test of crystallized
intelligence was adapted from existing traditional tests of analogies and
synonyms/antonyms used in Russia.
The measure of creative intelligence also comprised two parts. The first
part asked the participants to describe the world through the eyes of insects.
The second part asked participants to describe who might live and what
might happen on a planet called “Priumliava.” No additional information on
the nature of the planet was specified. Each part of the test was scored in three
different ways to yield three different scores. The first score was for originality (novelty); the second was for the amount of development in the plot (quality); and the third was for creative use of prior knowledge in these relatively
novel kinds of tasks (sophistication).
The measure of practical intelligence was self-report and also comprised
two parts. The first part was designed as a 20-item, self-report instrument,
assessing practical skills in the social domain (e.g., effective and successful
communication with other people), in the family domain (e.g., how to fix
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household items, how to run the family budget), and in the domain of effective resolution of sudden problems (e.g., organizing something that has
become chaotic). The second part had four vignettes, based on themes that
appeared in popular Russian magazines in the context of discussion of adaptive skills in the current society. The four themes were, respectively, how to
maintain the value of one’s savings, what to do when one makes a purchase
and discovers that the item one has purchased is broken, how to locate medical assistance in a time of need, and how to manage a salary bonus one has
received for outstanding work. Each vignette was accompanied by five
choices, and participants had to select the best one. Obviously, there is no one
so-called right answer in this type of situation. Hence, Grigorenko and
Sternberg (2001) used the most frequently chosen response as the keyed
answer. To the extent that this response was suboptimal, this suboptimality
would work against the researchers in subsequent analyses relating scores on
this test to other predictor and criterion measures.
In this study, exploratory principal-component analysis for children and
adults yielded very similar factor structures. Varimax and oblimin rotations
yielded clear-cut analytical, creative, and practical factors for the tests. Thus,
a sample of a different nationality (Russian), a different set of tests, and a different method of analysis (exploratory rather than confirmatory analysis)
again supported the theory of successful intelligence.
In this same study, the analytical, creative, and practical tests we employed were used to predict mental and physical health among the Russian
adults. Mental health was measured by widely used paper-and-pencil tests of
depression and anxiety and physical health was measured by self-report. The
best predictor of mental and physical health was the practical-intelligence
measure. (Or, because the data are correlational, it may be that health predicts
practical intelligence, although the connection here is less clear.) Analytical
intelligence came second, and creative intelligence came third. All three contributed to prediction, however. Thus, we again concluded that a theory of
intelligence encompassing all three elements provides better prediction of
success in life than does a theory encompassing just the analytical element.
In addition to studying intelligence in context abroad, we have also studied managers in the United States using measures of practical intelligence
(see Sternberg et al., 2000, for a comprehensive description of these research
projects). In a typical study, we measured tacit knowledge using workrelated problems that present problems one might encounter on the job. We
have measured tacit knowledge for children and adults, and among adults,
for people in over two dozen occupations, such as management, sales, academia, teaching, school administration, secretarial work, and the military. In a
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typical tacit-knowledge problem, people are asked to read a story about a
problem someone faces and to rate, for each statement in a set of statements,
how adequate a solution the statement represents. For example, in a paperand-pencil measure of tacit knowledge for management, we might ask
examinees how to deal with difficult subordinates, obtaining contracts, or
with their own tendency to procrastinate.
In the tacit-knowledge studies, we have found, first, that practical intelligence as embodied in tacit knowledge increases with experience; however, it
is profiting from experience, rather than experience per se, that results in
increases in scores. Some people can have been in a job for years and still
have acquired relatively little tacit knowledge. Second, we also have found
that subscores on tests of tacit knowledge—such as for managing oneself,
managing others, and managing tasks—correlate significantly with each
other. Third, scores on various tests of tacit knowledge, such as for academics and managers, are also correlated fairly substantially (at about the 0.5
level) with each other. Thus, fourth, tests of tacit knowledge may yield a general factor across these tests. However, fifth, scores on tacit-knowledge tests
do not correlate with scores on conventional tests of intelligence, whether the
measures used are single-score measures of multiple-ability batteries. Thus,
any general factor from the tacit-knowledge tests is not the same as any general factor from tests of academic abilities (suggesting that neither kind of g
factor is truly general, but rather, general only across a limited range of
measuring instruments). Sixth, despite the lack of correlation of practicalintellectual with conventional measures, the scores on tacit-knowledge tests
predict performance on the job as well as or better than do conventional
psychometric intelligence tests. In one study done at the Center for Creative
Leadership (Sternberg et al., 2000), we further found, seventh, that scores on
our tests of tacit knowledge for management were the best single predictor of
performance on a managerial simulation. In a hierarchical regression, scores
on conventional tests of intelligence, personality, styles, and interpersonal
orientation were entered first, and scores on the test of tacit knowledge were
entered last. Scores on the test of tacit knowledge were the single best predictor of managerial simulation score. Moreover, these scores also contributed
significantly to the prediction even after everything else was entered first into
the equation. In recent work on military leadership (see Sternberg et al.,
2000), it was found, eighth, that scores of 562 participants on tests of tacit
knowledge for military leadership predicted ratings of leadership
effectiveness, whereas scores on a conventional test of intelligence and on a
tacit-knowledge test for managers did not significantly predict the ratings of
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Intelligence cannot be understood outside its cultural context. People
from developed countries, and especially Western ones, can show and have
shown a certain kind of arrogance in assuming that concepts (such as implicit
theories of intelligence) or results (such as of studies based on explicit theories of intelligence) obtained in one culture—usually, their culture—apply
anywhere. In all likelihood, they do not. Or at least, it cannot be assumed they
do until this assumption is tested.
Many of the results we described here are at variance with results typically
obtained in Western countries. Other investigators as well have obtained
results that differ dramatically from those obtained in the developed West.
We believe, therefore, that cultural views of intelligence helps us understand
intelligence in a broad, not narrow way.
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