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The educational, occupational, and creative accomplishments of the profoundly gifted participants (IQs ⩾ 160) in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) are astounding, but are they representative of equally able 12-year-olds? Duke University's Talent Identification Program (TIP) identified 259 young adolescents who were equally gifted. By age 40, their life accomplishments also were extraordinary: Thirty-seven percent had earned doctorates, 7.5% had achieved academic tenure (4.3% at research-intensive universities), and 9% held patents; many were high-level leaders in major organizations. As was the case for the SMPY sample before them, differential ability strengths predicted their contrasting and eventual developmental trajectories-even though essentially all participants possessed both mathematical and verbal reasoning abilities far superior to those of typical Ph.D. recipients. Individuals, even profoundly gifted ones, primarily do what they are best at. Differences in ability patterns, like differences in interests, guide development along different paths, but ability level, coupled with commitment, determines whether and the extent to which noteworthy accomplishments are reached if opportunity presents itself.
© The Author(s) 2016.
Work preferences, life values, and personal views of top math/science graduate students (275 men, 255 women) were assessed at ages 25 and 35 years. In Study 1, analyses of work preferences revealed developmental changes and gender differences in priorities: Some gender differences increased over time and increased more among parents than among childless participants, seemingly because the mothers' priorities changed. In Study 2, gender differences in the graduate students' life values and personal views at age 35 were compared with those of profoundly gifted participants (top 1 in 10,000, identified by age 13 and tracked for 20 years: 265 men, 84 women). Again, gender differences were larger among parents. Across both cohorts, men appeared to assume a more agentic, career-focused perspective than women did, placing more importance on creating high-impact products, receiving compensation, taking risks, and gaining recognition as the best in their fields. Women appeared to favor a more communal, holistic perspective, emphasizing community, family, friendships, and less time devoted to career. Gender differences in life priorities, which intensify during parenthood, anticipated differential male-female representation in high-level and time-intensive careers, even among talented men and women with similar profiles of abilities, vocational interests, and educational experiences.
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An electroencephalographic (EEG) study of gifted and average ability male and female adolescents, as well as college students of both sexes, was conducted to investigate further the relative contributions the left and right cerebral hemispheres during an eyes open (baseline) task in all groups. A total of 90 subjects had baseline EEG recorded in three groups with equal numbers of males and females: 30 gifted adolescents, 30 average ability adolescents, and 30 college-age subjects. Overall alpha power (8-12 Hz resting potential) was significantly greater in average ability subjects compared to both college-age subjects. Moreover, there were no significant differences in overall alpha power between college-age and gifted adolescent subjects. However, college-age and gifted adolescent subjects had different RH/LH patterns of activation such that at temporal and parietal locations college-age and gifted adolescent subjects had greater LH alpha power levels whereas gifted adolescents had greater RH alpha power. These findings suggest that gifted adolescents may have a developmentally enhanced state of brain activity, one that more closely resembles that of college-age adults to whom they also resemble in terms of cognitive development.
For over 20 years, above-level testing with the College Board Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has been used to assess the abilities of well over 1,000,000 highly able 12-13-year-olds (students in the top 3% in intellectual ability). In this population, the predictive validity of the mathematical part of the SAT, SAT-M, for academic and vocational criteria has been demonstrated over 10-year gaps. Here, we document aspects of the psychological and achievement profiles of these highly able students, paying particular attention to sex differences. Males score higher on SAT-M (i.e., mathematical reasoning ability) than females; this difference is accompanied by differences between the sexes in spatial-mechanical reasoning abilities and in a number of lifestyle and vocational preferences. Collectively, these attributes appear to play a key role in structuring male-female disparities in pursuing advanced educational credentials and careers in the physical sciences. After profiling a number of the behavioural characteristics of the highly able, we examine some underlying biological correlates of these phenotypic manifestations. These include hormonal influences, medical and bodily conditions and enhanced right hemispheric activation.
O'Boyle and Benbow (1990) have suggested that enhanced involvement of the right hemisphere (RH) during basic information processing is a neuropsychologic characteristic of the gifted brain. To provide converging evidence for this hypothesis, the present study was conducted using a concurrent finger-tapping paradigm. Specifically, 24 mathematically precocious and 16 average ability adolescent males were required to tap a key as quickly as possible while sitting silently (baseline condition), concurrently reading a paragraph aloud (verbal load), or encoding a random form into memory (spatial load). For average ability subjects, the concurrent verbal load reduced tapping rate for the right but not the left hand, reflecting a division of LH resources between linguistic processing of the paragraph and motor control of the contralateral hand. In contrast, for gifted subjects, both their left- and right-hand tapping rates were significantly reduced, suggesting that both hemispheres were engaged during verbal processing. The concurrent spatial task produced a small but reliable reduction in finger-tapping rate for both the left and right hand in each group. These findings provide additional support for the notion that enhanced reliance on RH functioning is a physiological correlate of mathematical precocity in gifted males.
A sample of 162 intellectually gifted adolescents (top 1%) were administered the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory at age 13. Fifteen years later, they were administered the Strong again. This study evaluated the intra- and interindividual temporal stability of the 6 RIASEC (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional) themes and the Strong's 23 Basic Interest Scales. Over the 15-year test-retest interval, RIASEC's median interindividual correlation for the 6 themes was .46; the median of all 162 intraindividual correlations was .57. Configural analyses of the most dominant theme at age 13 revealed that this theme was significantly more likely than chance to be either dominant or adjacent to the dominant theme at age 28--following RIASEC's hexagonal structure. For intellectually gifted individuals, it appears to be possible to forecast salient features of their adult RIASEC profile by assessing their vocational interests during early adolescence, but some RIASEC themes seem more stable than others.
In the present study, intellectually precocious and average ability youths performed a dichotic listening task (Experiment 1) and a free-vision chimeric face task (Experiment 2). Patterns of hemispheric lateralization and the relative involvement of the left and right hemispheres during cognitive processing were assessed. In Experiment 1, the average ability youths demonstrated a right ear/left hemisphere (re/LH) superiority for identification of CV syllables, while the gifted subjects failed to show any ear/hemisphere advantage. In Experiment 2, members of both groups tended to judge the leftside smile/rightside neutral half-faces as "happier", a pattern indicative of enhanced right hemisphere (RH) arousal. Notably, the degree of RH involvement was significantly greater in the gifted as compared to average ability youths. Moreover, laterality scores of the precocious on the chimeric face task correlated with their performance on the College Board Scholastic Aptitude test (SAT), i.e. the greater the leftward bias, the higher the SAT score. These findings, taken in composite, suggest that a high level of RH involvement during cognitive processing may be related to intellectual precocity.
A preliminary electroencephalographic (EEG) investigation was conducted to determine if the pattern of hemispheric activation in mathematically precocious youth differs from that of average math ability subjects. Alpha activity at four brain sites (frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes) over the left and right cerebral hemispheres (LH/RH) was monitored while 12- to 14-year-old, right-handed males: (a) looked at a blank slide (baseline condition), (b) judged which of two chimeric faces was "happier," and (c) determined if a word was a noun or a verb. At baseline, the LH of the precocious group was found to be more active at all four brain sites relative to that of the average ability group. During chimeric face processing, the gifted subjects exhibited a significant reduction in alpha power over the RH, primarily at the temporal lobe, while no such alpha suppression was observed in the average ability subjects. For noun/verb determinations, no significant alpha power reductions were obtained for either group. These electrophysiological data generally corroborate the behavioral findings of O'Boyle and Benbow (1990a) and support their contention that enhanced RH involvement during cognitive processing may be a correlate of mathematical precocity. Moreover, the pattern of activation observed across tasks suggests that the ability to effectively coordinate LH and RH processing resources at an early age may be linked to intellectual giftedness.