Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid

Edited by Robert Sternberg

View Inside Price: $29.00


August 11, 2003
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300101706
Paper

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Cloth

One need not look far to find breathtaking acts of stupidity committed by people who are smart, or even brilliant. The behavior of smart individuals—from presidents to prosecutors to professors—is at times so amazingly stupid as to seem inexplicable. Why do otherwise intelligent people think and behave in ways so stupid that they sometimes destroy their livelihoods or even their lives?
This book is the first devoted to investigating what the most current psychological research can tell us about stupidity in everyday life. The contributors to the volume, renowned scholars in various areas of human intelligence, present fascinating examples of people messing up their lives, and they offer insights into the reasons for such behavior. From a variety of perspectives, the contributors discuss:
• The nature and theory of stupidity
• How stupidity contributes to stupid behavior
• Whether stupidity is measurable
While many millions of dollars are spent each year on intelligence research and testing to determine who has the ability to succeed, next to nothing is spent to determine who will make use of their intelligence and not squander it by behaving stupidly. Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid focuses on the neglected side of this discussion, reviewing the full range of theory and research on stupid behavior and analyzing what it tells us about how people can avoid stupidity and its devastating consequences.

Robert J. Sternberg is IBM Professor of Psychology and Education and director of PACE, the Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise, at Yale University. He is a widely known expert on intelligence testing and the author or editor of some sixty books, including The Psychology of Love and Competence Considered, both published by Yale University Press.

“This original book gathers together the best thinking and research on what causes smart people to do foolish things. A highly original work with an exceptional list of contributors.”—Martin Ford, Graduate School of Education, George Mason University

“One way to generate interesting, new research ideas in science is to take an old idea and turn it on its head (as Yale social psychologist, William McGuire once said, ‘the opposite of a great truth is also a great truth’). In this volume, Bob Sternberg and the experts he has assembled attempt to understand the psychological basis of narrow models of intelligence. Foolishness runs rampant—from the schoolroom to the boardroom to the bedroom—in part because we are afforded insufficient practice to hone our practical, emotional, and social competencies, what Jack Mayer and I like to call our ‘hot intelligences.’ By revealing the many ways in which smart people behave maladaptively and the social conditions that give rise to such bungling, the contributors to this volume stimulate new directions for theory, research, and practice with respect to human intelligence.”—Peter Salovey, Chris Argyris Professor and Chair of Psychology, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University

"Professor Sternberg and the experts he has assembled attempt to understand the psychological basis of stupidity. They succeed admirably, and while doing so, reveal the limitations of our field’s traditional and rather narrow models of intelligence. By revealing the many ways in which smart people behave maladaptively and the social conditions that give rise to such bungling, the contributors to this volume stimulate new directions for theory, research, and practice with respect to human intelligence."—Peter Salovey, Yale University

"Marvelous, devilishly clever, and culturally timely book. . . . A fascinating exploration. . . All of the contributions are outstanding."—Choice

"Easily readable and well referenced. . . . For those of us who know we are smart yet we do stupid things, settling down one evening with this comfortable read may provide just enough momentum for change."—Lawrence J. Whalley, International Journal of Intelligence

“This collection of eleven loosely connected chapters provides a good foundation from which to launch an inquiry into why smart people commit serious goofs, and yet leaves plenty of room for the reader to continue with her or his own speculations. . . . This is a book well worth reading . . . a book designed to broaden the reader’s knowledge base and stimulate her or his own thoughts on the subject, rather than to present a tight, packaged account of stupidity.”—Keith S. Harris, Metapsychology

“This book is a serious attempt to understand a common phenomenon. Students of human behavior should find it appealing and may even learn how to avoid doing stupid things.”—Psychology Today


“This book’s intent is something that academia needs. Intelligence may be something of a cult, but stupidity only receives cursory treatment. . . . Precisely because the state of being dumb has no analogue to being smart, Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid provides valuable insight into a subject that eludes, but intrigues as well.”—James A. Crawford, The Harvard Crimson

Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid offers serious answers to a neglected conundrum, one with ramifications for understanding the very nature of intelligence itself. As always, Robert Sternberg takes on important issues in a creative way, and has gathered a strong band of contributors, each of whom offers an insightful analysis. A rewarding read.”—Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., author of Emotional Intelligence

Chosen by the as one of "The Best of the Best from the University Presses: Books You Should Know About" for 2003 by the American Library Association

Chosen as an "Outstanding" title in the 2002 Association of American University Presses (AAUP) University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
Competence Considered

Edited by and Robert Sternberg

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