Paradoxically, the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 both activate STAT3, yet generate nearly opposing cellular responses. Here, we show that the temporal pattern of STAT3 activation codes for the specific cytokine response. A computational model of IL-6 and IL-10 signaling predicted that IL-6 stimulation results in transient activation of STAT3, with a rapid decline in phosphorylation and nuclear localization. In contrast, simulated IL-10 signaling resulted in sustained STAT3 activation. The predicted STAT3 patterns producedbyeach cytokine were confirmed experimentally in human dendritic cells. Time course microarray studies further showed that the dynamic genome-wide transcriptional responses were nearly identical at early time points following stimulation (when STAT3 is active in response to both IL-6 and IL-10) but divergentat later times (when STAT3 isactive only in response to IL-10). Truncating STAT3 activation after IL-10 stimulation caused IL-10 to elicit an IL-6-like transcriptional and secretory response. That the duration of IL-10 receptor and STAT3 activation can direct distinct responses reveals a complex cellular information-coding mechanism that may be relevant to improving the prediction of the effects of drug candidates using this mechanism.