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Reply to the book review on Practical Intelligence in Everyday Life. (Discussion).

In her review of Practical Intelligence in Everyday Life (Steinberg et al., 2000), Gottfredson (2001) is critical of our claim that there exists a meaningful construct of practical intelligence that is distinct from psychometric g. She concludes that "the book's lofty claims float virtually free of empirical grounding" (p. 364).

Gottfredson has elected to critique a few reported empirical studies by myself and my collaborators, which, she argues, do not compellingly support our claims. I agree that the research program of any one investigator or investigative group is not likely to provide conclusive evidence in favor of a construct, and certainly cannot compete with close to 100 years of research on g or anything else. At the same time, Gottfredson ignores numerous other studies, both by us and by others, that are cited in the book and that are supportive of our claims.

Consider a partial list of studies--many of them multiple--that are (a) cited in our book, (b) not by the coauthors of the book, (c) supportive of some kind of construct of practical intelligence (called by various names), (d) illustrative of the diverse converging operations that have been used in study of practical intelligence, and (e) ignored by Gottfredson (2001). (Of course, our book does not list all supportive studies.) The studies are listed forthwith by senior authors (with space limitations preventing full referencing here, although full references are in our book): Baltes, Berg, Berry, Birren, Blanchard-Fields, Bloom, Bronfenbrenner, L. Brown, Bruner, Cantor, Carraher (Nunes), Ceci, Chapin, Chen, Colonia-Willner, Cornelius, Denney, Dittmann-Kohli, Dixon, Dodge, Dorner, Eddy, Fiedler, Folkman, Ford, Frederiksen, Freeman, Gardner, Gazzaniga, Gill, Goodnow, Guilford, Hendricks, T. Hunt, Isenberg, Keating, Kihlstrom, Kitchener, Klaczynski, Kosmitzki, Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, Lave, Legree, Luria, Mayer, McCall, McClelland, Moss, Murtaugh, Neisser, O'Sullivan, Riggio, Roazzi, Rogoff, Rosenthal, Salovey, Sansone, Schutte, Scribner, Serpell, Sinnott, J. Smith, Snow, Staudinger, Stricker, Strough, Thorndike, D. Wagner, Wertsch, and Yussen. In that Gottfredson's review fails to take into account any of this diverse evidence, the review seems somewhat selective. Whereas some might question the research of any one or several of the 70 researchers in this incomplete list of individuals whose work suggests a distinct construct of some kind of practical intelligence, it would seem that, taken together, the studies have some merit. Our book, therefore, perhaps does better than "float virtually free of empirical grounding."

In my view, the argument between Gottfredson and ourselves is overstated. I, personally, would have preferred a less combative and dismissive tone to the review (what author would not?). She and we agree that numerous factor analyses of conventional psychometric tests of abilities have yielded and will continue to yield a general factor. We also agree that measures of g are important predictors of many things, and that such measures and the g construct on which they are based will continue to be important to theory, research, and practice in psychology. We (the coauthors) also believe, however, that the psychology of intelligence, like other areas of psychology and other sciences, needs to progress and to search for new constructs. After close to a century of research on g, at the very least, it is time to explore new constructs in creative, analytical, and practical ways and to challenge ourselves to think about existing constructs in unconventional ways.


Preparation of this article was supported in part by Contracts DASW01-99-K-0004 and DASW01-00-K-0014 and from the US Army Research Institute. Although our book, Practical Intelligence in Everyday Life, was coauthored, this article represents only my own views. Gottfredson has written a longer article critiquing our work, which contains many of the same points that are in her book review, that will also appear in Intelligence; because of space limitations on this reply, I am deferring a response to her specific charges about our work to the reply that will be written to that article.


Gottfredson, L. S. (2001). Book review. Practical intelligence in everyday life. Intelligence, 29, 363-365.

Sternberg, R. J., Forsythe, G. B., Hedlund, J., Horvath, J. A., Wagner, R. K., Williams, W. M., Snook, S. A., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2000). Practical intelligence in everyday life. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Robert J. Sternberg *

Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise, Yale University, 340 Edward Street, Box 208358, New Haven, CT 06520-8358, USA

* Tel.: +1-203-432-4633; fax: +1-203-432-8317. E-mail address: (R.J. Sternberg).

Received 27 June 2001; accepted 27 June 2001
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Author:Sternberg, Robert J.
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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