AOH :: GIFTED.TXT|
Is giftedness just high intelligence?
Is Giftedness Just High Intelligence?
by Barry Grant
Most schools and programs identify academically gifted and talented
students primarily on the basis of scores on intelligence, achievement,
and aptitude tests. These tests can certainly identify bright students,
but do they measure all there is to giftedness? The answer is clearly,
no. Gifted persons are not just smart, they also have personality
characteristics that enable them to use their intelligence in adaptive
ways, seek out information, find new problems, propose creative
solutions, experience their feelings intensely and vividly, and respond
to the world in unique ways.
A number of researchers have used a theory by Kazimierz Dabrowski as a
guide for exploring these non-intellective aspects of giftedness.
Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, devised a theory that
attempts to describe and explain the development of self-actualized and
morally advanced adults. His work addresses the development of moral
leaders like Gandhi and King, great artists like Tolstoy and Picasso,
and visionary scientists like Darwin and Einstein. He believed that the
development of suc h persons differs radically from that of ordinary
people. Their intense experiences of intellectual and moral problems
lead them beyond conventions to new ways of living their thinking, moral
example, and creativity forge a path for others to follow.
Dabrowski's Theory of Levels of Emotional Development states that people
are born with varying levels of what he calls over excitabilities (
OEs), or modes of experiencing the world. The five OEs Dabrowski
identified and some of the ways in which they are expressed are:
psychomotor-- restlessness, love of fast games, high levels of physical
energy: sensual -- enjoyment of sensory pleasures; intellectual--
curiosity, love of ideas, avidity for knowledge; imaginational--vivid
dreams, liking for the unusual, use of metaphor, inventiveness;
emotional--capacity for intense and differentiated feelings, strong
attachments, empathy. He speculated that a person's OE's set a limit on
character development. Intellectual, imaginational, and emotional OE's,
especially a capacity for experiencing such emotions as compassion,
empathy, guilt, and shame, seemed to him to make the most important
contributions to development. Subsequent research suggested that
imaginational OE is important to cr eativity but not to character d
Michael Yiechowski, who worked with Dabrowski, saw in the theory a
potential for illuminating the makeup and development of gifted and
creative persons of all ages and types. Research by Piechowski and
others(e.g.,Gallagher, 1985; Piechowski&Colangelo, 1984: Piechowski,
Silverman, ~ Falk, 1985; Schiever, 1985) suggests that intellectually
gifted persons, as a group, have more intense intellectual, emotional,
sensual, and imaginational OEs than non-gifted persons. High
intelligence and an ability to do well in school and on tests may be
what gifted students are recognized and valued for in school, but it is
far from all that they are.
Particularly striking in the character of gifted persons is their richly
complex and intense emotional lives. They seem to experience life more
deeply than non-gifted persons. Gifted persons report being "flooded by
unexpected waves of joy", "feeling incredibly alive--every cell, muscle,
etc., (feeling) stimulated"; and experiencing "even the greatest pain .
. . [ as) ecstatic and full of life" (Piechowski,1990)1 Roeper (1982)
echoes Piechowski in her description of giftedness as "a greater
awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to transform
perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences" (p.21). These
characteristics help gifted students put their intelligence to use in
unique ways and also give them the potential for high levels of
When talking about giftedness, there is a danger of presenting it as a
kind of thing that every gifted person possesses in exactly the same
way. Research by Piechowski identifies at least two groups of gifted
adolescents. One group, with lesser developmental potential, appears "to
be drawn to well-paved obstacle courses governed by established norms of
achievement, recognition, and responsible citizenship" (Piechowski,
1986,p.196). Another group demonstrates considerable emotional growth in
the form of awa reness of self and possible paths of development,
interest in their own emotional lives, empathy, inner dialogue,
philosophical questioning, and even feelings of unreality as their inner
explorations take them away from established paths and conventional ways
of viewing reality .
The development of gifted adolescents with high developmental potential
is seldom smooth, seldom without turmoil and inner conflict. Dabrowski's
theory sees such "maladjustment" as an indication of growth, not as a
psychological problem needing a cure. The intensity with which gifted
persons experience life can make them doubt their mental balance and be
hard to live with, but it is also, as the work of Dabrowski and
Piechowski helps us to see, what gives their intelligence direction,
shape, and passion.
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