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    The Theory of the Balance of Wisdom, Creativity and Intelligence

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    Much (if not all) of the theoretical groundwork for exploring the intersection of creativity, wisdom, and intelligence constructs has been developed by Robert Sternberg across two primary theories. First is his balance theory of wisdom (Sternberg, 1998, 2001), which focuses on wisdom yet also encompasses creativity and intelligence. The balance theory defines the core tenets of wisdom as balancing goal-setting ability, responses to environment, interests, and short- and long- term goals, all in conjunction with values and morals. It states that wise decisions are not purely based on intelligence or factual knowledge, but also on tacit knowledge (part of the earlier-described practical intelligence).

    Wisdom is the balance between these different tenets with both immediate and lasting effects. It comes with the recognition of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and extrapersonal interests (i.e., the needs of oneself, others, and the community, respectively). In an individual, these combined characteristics define a person who most likely possesses critical aspects of both intelligence and creativity. These are the differentiation factors separating those who are intelligent/creative and wise from someone who is intelligent/creative and foolish.

    Next, Sternberg addressed all three constructs together in is his model of wisdom, intelligence, and creativity, synthesized (WICS), which was presented as a model of cognitive processing (Sternberg, 2003b). Cognitive dimensions of processing are an individual’s ability to understand life, comprehend significance, and appreciate deeper meaning, particularly regarding interpersonal and intrapersonal matters (Ardelt, 2003).

    This model considers cognitive ability beyond traditional standardized tests. Similar to Sternberg’s (1985a, 1997) earlier triarchic and successful intelligence theories, WICS is grounded in the idea that intelligence must include creative abilities. A smart person needs to be able to go beyond information presented to an individual in explicit terms and imagine a new angle for the old problem. It takes wisdom into account not as a bonus or supplemental construct, but rather as an essential part of ability to act pragmatically. The WICS model is applicable across many contexts, such as gifted identification (Sternberg, 2003a), gifted education practices (Dai, 2003), leadership (Sternberg, 2005), classroom settings (Sternberg, 2010), university admissions (Sternberg, Bonney, Gabora, & Merrifield, 2012), or awarding scholarships (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2004), among many others.

    The WICS model systematically combines the aforementioned areas, which rests on the assumption that someone who possesses and combines these attributes can use each area in a comprehensive fashion (Sternberg, 2003b). Creativity can be used to generate depictions and solutions for problems. Intelligence (both analytic and practical) can help implement decisions and persuade others of the intrinsic value of these choices. Wisdom is used to ensure that when one uses intelligence and creativity to advance in life, the pathway chosen will be beneficial to the global community.

    Other theories of wisdom do not explicitly address intelligence and creativity but include related concepts. For example, the Berlin wisdom paradigm (Baltes & Smith, 2008) encompasses factual and strategic knowledge about the fundamental pragmatics of life, which would likely overlap with intelligence. Further, the paradigm also includes being able to manage the uncertainties of life, which would require tolerance for ambiguity (which, as discussed earlier, is related to creativity.

    Within both creativity and intelligence research and theory, there are many models of different domains, disciplines, and abilities. Within creativity, for example, there might be divisions between art, writing, science, and business or different stages of creative problem solving (Mumford et al, 1991) or different levels of ability (Kaufman & Beghetto, 2009). Both traditional and more contemporary models of intelligence distinguish different abilities and processes that comprise the larger construct.

    Wisdom is a spectrum that could be a different type of categorization for both creativity and intelligence. The primary moderating variable that determines the manner in which someone uses their gifts is wisdom. Isolated from context, creativity and intelligence are simply tools. Is a hammer good or bad? It depends on whether the hand wielding it is building a house or attacking someone. Wisdom can be that hand. Wise people would be able use their creativity and intelligence to do meaningful things that contribute to society in some way. A very wise person with mediocre intellect and unimpressive creativity can do more good than a creative and intellectual genius with poor wisdom.

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    The Theory of the Balance of Wisdom, Creativity and Intelligence. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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