dinsdag 18 oktober 2011

Gifted People and their Problems

By Francis Heylighen, PhD    [page 1/2]
Highly gifted people have a number of personality traits that set them apart, and that are not obviously connected to the traits of intelligence, IQ, or creativity that are most often used to  define the category.
Many of these traits have to do with their particularly intense feelings and emotions, others with their sometimes awkward social interactions.

These traits make  that these people are typically misunderstood and underestimated by peers, by society, and usually even by themselves. As such, most of their gifts are actually underutilized, and they rarely fulfill their full creative potential.

This is particularly true for gifted women, as they don’t fit the stereotypes that society has either of women or of gifted people (typically seen as men).
The present document is a quick attempt at sketching the overall picture, summarizing the essential characteristics and the kind of problems they tend to give rise to.

While this is mostly a collection of existing material, I intend to prepare a paper offering a novel interpretation of these data on the basis of a cybernetic/cognitive/evolutionary thinking.

Summary of traits
The following is a digest of the traits that are most often listed as characterizing “gifted” or “creative” individuals.
The number of “*” signs indicates how often this trait (or a very similar one) appeared in one of the lists that I found on the web.

I have ordered the traits in different categories, in order to emphasize that these traits extend much further than just intelligence and knowledge (cognition).
As a comparison, I have also included the traits (indicated by a “•”) from Maslow’s description of what he calls the “self-actualizing personality”.

There is obviously a strong overlap in both lists, although Maslow seems to virtually ignore the cognitive traits, while emphasizing the motivational and emotional ones, in accord with his motivation-based theory.
The fact that in spite of this very different basis to establish two personality types, the overlap is so obvious, confirms my own reinterpretation of Maslow’s theory in which I argue that self-actualization requires not only need satisfaction, but cognitive competence, i.e. knowledge and intelligence.
(Heylighen F. (1992): "A Cognitive-Systemic Reconstruction of Maslow's Theory of Self- Actualization", Behavioral Science 37, p. 39-58.)


**********• original, unusual ideas, creativity, connects seemingly unrelated ideas
******* superior abilities to reason, generalize or problem solve, high intelligence
****** vivid and rich imagination
****** extensive vocabulary, verbal ability, fascinated by words
***** learns new things rapidly
***** excellent long term memory
**** grasps mathematical/scientific concepts readily, advanced comprehension, insightful
**** avid reader.
*** complex and deep thoughts, abstract thinker
** runs mind on multiple tracks at the same time, fast thinker

******* highly sensitive
*******• excellent/unusual sense of humour
******• very perceptive, good sense of observation
*****• passionate, intense feelings
***• sensitive to small changes in environment
*** introverted
**• aware of things that others are not, perceive world differently
**• tolerance for ambiguity & complexity
** can see many sides, considers problems from a number of viewpoints
*• childlike sense of wonder
• openness to experience
• emotional stability, serenity

********** perfectionistic, sets high standards for self and others
*********• very curious, desire to know
********• very independent, autonomous, less motivated by rewards and praise
*******• seeker of ultimate truths, looks for patterns, meaning in life ******* enjoys challenge, penchant for risk-taking
******• outrage at injustice or moral breaches, good sense of justice
****• wide range of interests, overwhelmed by many interests and abilities
****• strong moral convictions, integrity, honesty
****• high drive
**• visionary, realizes visions, sense of destiny or mission
** loves ideas and ardent discussion
• sincerity
• acceptance of self and others

******* great deal of energy
******• long attention span, sustains concentration on topics of interest, persistent
**** cannot stop thinking, work myself to exhaustion
***• needs periods of contemplation, solitude
• spontaneity

Social relations
*********• questions rules or authority, asks embarrassing questions, non-conforming
*******• feels different, out of step with others, sense of alienation and loneliness
*****• very compassionate
****• empathy: feels along with others, helps them understand themselves

Quotes from other sources

This is a collection of bits and snippets that I collected from the Web. Emphasis in the longer quotes is mine. Search quote in Google to find its source.

Characteristics of Creative Genius

I have always had an insatiable curiosity.
I am able to run my mind on multiple tracks at the same time.
I learn rapidly and retain / apply what I learn.
I tend to be very independent.
I tend to be less motivated than others are by rewards, bonuses, and praise.
At times I have asked embarrassing questions or rudely pointed out truths at the wrong time.
My preference for the complex can fool me into underestimating the simple answer.
I like to refine and improve others' innovations.
I feel comfortable with a wide range of emotions.
I can see many sides to nearly any issue.
Honesty, integrity, and ethics are important to me.
I can help others understand themselves better.
I am a seeker and champion of ultimate truths.
My nervous system is easily aroused, and I am able to discern the slightest changes in my environment (aromas, shifts in light, etc.) or detect irritants (e.g. scratchy sweater label).
I can feel along with and for others.
I set high standards for myself and for others and am my own worst critic.
I tend to look for consistency and security in systems, rules, and orderliness.
I am often considered a "driven" person. I have maintained my childlike sense of wonder.
I am intent on searching out universal truths.
I am deeply disturbed by inequity, exploitation, corruption, and needless human suffering.
I can and do work myself to exhaustion.
Some people think I'm too serious.
I have always been interested in social reform.
I value and will defend diversity.
I have a strong need to "make a difference."
I have a penchant for risk-taking.
I can and do ignore my own needs for the sake of others.

© LIBERATING EVERYDAY GENIUS TM by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D. - retitled  The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius

Characteristics of Gifted Adults

Perfectionistic and sets high standards for self and others.
Has strong moral convictions.
Is highly sensitive, perceptive or insightful. Fascinated by words or an avid reader.
Feels out-of-sync with others.
Is very curious.
Has an unusual sense of humour.
A good problem solver.
Has a vivid and rich imagination.
Questions rules or authority.
Has unusual ideas or connects seemingly unrelated ideas.
Thrives on challenge.
Learns new things rapidly.
Has a good long-term memory.
Feels overwhelmed by many interests and abilities.
Is very compassionate.
Feels outrage at moral breaches that the rest of the world seems to take for granted.
Has passionate, intense feelings.
Has a great deal of energy.
Can't switch off thinking.
Feels driven by creativity.
Loves ideas and ardent discussion. Needs periods of contemplation.
Searches for ???? in their life.
Feels a sense of alienation and loneliness.
Is very perceptive.
Feels out of step with others.
© The Gifted Resource Center and Lesley Sword, Ph.D.
[See titles by Lesley Sword on Articles: gifted.]

Normal Behavior for Gifted People

It is NORMAL for Gifted People to:
Have complex and deep thoughts. Feel intense emotions.
Ask lots of questions. Be highly sensitive.
Set high standards for themselves. Have strong moral convictions.
Feel different & out-of-sync.  Be curious. Have a vivid imagination. Question rules or authority. Thrive on challenge.
Feel passion and compassion. Have a great deal of energy.
Have an unusual sense of humour. Feel outrage at injustice.
Look for meaning in life. Feel sad about the state of the world.
Feel a spiritual connection to life.
© The Gifted Resource Center and Lesley Sword, Ph.D

Most Prevalent Characteristics of Giftedness

99.4% learn rapidly
99.4% have extensive vocabulary
99.3% have excellent memory
99.3% reason well
97.9% are curious
96.1% are mature for their age at times
95.9% have an excellent sense of humor
93.8% have a keen sense of observation
93.5% have compassion for others
93.4% have a vivid imagination
93.4% have a long attention span
92.9% have ability with numbers
90.3% are concerned with justice and fairness
89.4% have facility with puzzles and legos
88.4% have a high energy level
88.3% are perfectionistic
85.9% are perseverant in their areas of interest
84.1% question authority
80.3% are avid readers Descriptions
90% were described by their parents as "sensitive."
83% like to concentrate on one activity at a time.
79% report high energy or activity levels.
44% are sensitive to clothing tags and other tactile sensations.

A Glossary of Gifted Education

Giftedness and education from the perspective of sociologic social psychology by Steven M. Nordby © 1997-2002

Levels of giftedness According to IQ measurements, the following labels are generally accepted:
* Bright - 115 and above
* Gifted - 130 and above
* Highly gifted - 145 and above
* Exceptionally gifted -160 and above
* Profoundly gifted - 175 and above

Because of measurement error and ceiling effect, the exceptionally and profoundly gifted labels are often used interchangably.

Characteristics of the gifted
The following characteristics are common but not universal:

* Shows superior abilities to reason, generalize or problem solve.
* Shows persistent intellectual curiosity.
* Has a wide range of interests; develops one or more interests to considerable depth.
* Produces superior written work or has a large vocabulary.
* Reads avidly.
* Learns quickly and retains what is learned.
* Grasps mathematical or scientific concepts readily.
* Shows creative ability or imaginative expression in the arts.
* Sustains concentration for lengthy periods on topics or activities of interest.
* Sets high standards for self.
* Shows initiative, originality, or flexibility in thinking; considers problems from a number of viewpoints.
* Observes keenly and is responsive to new ideas.
* Shows social poise or an ability to communicate with adults in a mature way.
* Enjoys intellectual challenge; shows an alert and subtle sense of humor.

These characteristics can lead to conflicts in the regular classroom, as the gifted child may:

* Get bored with routine tasks.
* Resist changing away from interesting topics or activities.
* Be overly critical of self and others, impatient with failure, perfectionistic.
* Disagree vocally with others, argue with teachers.
* Make jokes or puns at times adults consider inappropriate.
* Be so emotionally sensitive and empathetic that adults consider it over-reaction, may get angry, or cry when things go wrong or seem unfair.
* Ignore details, turn in messy work.
* Reject authority, be non-conforming, stubborn.
* Dominate or withdraw in cooperative learning situations.
* Be highly sensitive to environmental stimuli such as lights or noises.

These reactions of gifted students to the regular education environment are normal only within the context of an understanding of the gifted. Without that understanding, they may be used to label the student as ADD/ADHD or SED. See overexcitabilities.

Overexcitabilities -

A term originated by Kazimierz Dabrowski to describe excessive response to stimuli in five psychic domains (psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional) which may occur singly or in combination.

Overexcitabilities are often used to describe certain characteristics of the gifted. “It is often recognized that gifted and talented people are energetic, enthusiastic, intensely absorbed in their pursuits, endowed with vivid imagination, sensuality, moral sensitivity and emotional vulnerability. . . . [They are] experiencing in a higher key.” - Michael Piechowski.
Extreme overexcitabilities or a strong imbalance between them may reduce the individual's ability to function in society.
The Intellectual and Psychosocial Nature of Extreme Giftedness

Philip M. Powell & Tony Haden Roeper Review , Vol. 6 No. 3, p. 131-133, February 1984.

The highly gifted are rare in the population. Using IQ scores as a gross index to assess this rarity, those with IQ's of 150 and above occur about 5-7 times out of 10,000 persons.

The literature about them is also rare. Nevertheless, the attempt to understand the highly gifted is valuable because it can help us to help them achieve their potential.

It has been reported that the higher the level of giftedness, the greater the chance of psychological and social adjustment difficulties. [...]
Terman and Oden, (1959) found that the four traits which distinguished the gifted from the control group of normal or average children most clearly were:
* General intelligence * Desire to know
* Originality * Common sense
Torrance (1965) has argued that the gifted are independent thinkers. Dunn and Price (1980) provided evidence to show that those of average ability have a greater need for external structure than the intellectually gifted.
One important difference, then, between average persons and their gifted counterparts is in the need of externally imposed structure.

Gifted persons are more likely to make sense out of their intellectual experiences than the average person. Another important difference is in the desire to know complex ideas. Average persons have less desire to know ideas for their own sake.

They substitute participation in social affairs for idea dominance or the preference for thinking and generating ideas argued as characteristic of the mentally gifted (Powell, 1982).
The possession of the desire to know means that gifted individuals have a need to search for the inherent pattern, logic or meaning in a set of data information, while average people prefer to have the pattern, logic, or meaning already generated and explained. [...]

The highly gifted, on the other hand, have the greatest capacity to create structure and organize data and the greatest need to know.
At this extreme, such people can create whole disciplines (De Candolle) and/or frameworks for comprehending the universe (Newton and Einstein). [...]

Another problem for the highly gifted is they grow up with and are often socialized by significant others who do not understand them well enough to guide their ideas and actions with valid feedback.

This was true of Leopold and Loeb, who were given free rein to go and do as they pleased at an early age. Parents can also vacillate between being proud of and being scared of the achievements of the highly gifted child.
Parental pride in achievement can quickly turn to a fear of social stigma which can cause parents to give their gifted child inconsistent feedback. Hence, highly gifted children are never quite sure if it is good or bad to be very bright.

Thus, their concept of the value of being very gifted develops slowly and ambivalently. Peers, especially children, are often confused by the highly gifted person because it is difficult to identify with their superior cognitive abilities.

They may downplay the degree of superiority of the highly gifted by invalidating feedback. If this feedback is internalized, a self-conception may be constructed based on underrating the self.
Clark (1979) reported on a young female student who had spent 18 years believing she was not intelligent because she asked more questions than the others in class.

Later, in Clark's university class, when the characteristics of the gifted were discussed, the woman was so moved that she decided to say that she identified with the gifted even though she knew she was not gifted.

She was so stirred by the class that later that evening she called her parents. During a conversation with them, the woman student found out that she has a measured IQ of 165. School personnel had advised her parents not to discuss her extraordinary IQ with her.

This resulted in a low level of academic seIf-esteem and the ridiculous self-conception of being stupid! [...]

As a highly gifted 12 year old described it: “A real friend is a place you go when you need to take off the masks. You can say what you want to your friend because you know that your friend will really listen and even if he doesn’t like what you say, he will still like you. You can take off your camouflage with a real friend and still feel safe.”

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article continued on page 2
Francis Heylighen, PhD is a research professor at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), and director of the transdisciplinary research group on "Evolution, Complexity and Cognition".

Personal site: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html
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Article published here with kind permission of the author.

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