How Gifted Adolescents Make Judgments
SSTA Research Centre Report #92-02: 23 pages, $11.
|Introduction||The study examined the effects of five independent variables on the affective judgments of intellectually and academically gifted 14 to 16 year old adolescents. The affective variables manipulated were chosen from the literature on gifted learners.|
|Interpretation of Results|
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A movement to elicit and reward excellence has evolved since the 1970s among experts of many disciplines. A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), an investigation of educational services in the United States, laments the decline in standards and the lack of excellence in all levels and facets of education. This theme is echoed in a number of other reports such as the report of the Saskatchewan Curriculum Review Committee (1983) Directions and Peters' and Waterman's (1982) In Search of Excellence. The net result of such reports places a renewed emphasis on the need to identify and educate individuals capable of being unusually productive, contributing human beings. Gifted individuals, defined as those who consistently function at the top of the spectrum in any or all areas of human endeavour, are of particular interest to the purveyors of excellence, for these individuals seem to be the candidates most frequently identified for leadership and development activities.
Our present society is in a period of rapid change known variously as the technological era, the information age, or the nuclear age. The change is exponential, and unpredictable. The instability and uncertainty borne of such rapid change forces society to confront the disintegration of its present order and seek a way to reintegrate at a higher level. The need to acknowledge our current chaotic conditions and impending breakdown has brought our society to the realization of its need for vision, and its corresponding responsibility to nurture individuals whose ability could provide leadership for the future. The humanistic revival seems to signal the willingness of society to acknowledge differing levels of ability and to develop the potential of gifted individuals to insure survival into the next millennium.
Futurists and visionaries such as Naisbitt (1982), Moore (1984), and Gregg (1985), using trend analyses and predictive techniques, describe a future world radically different from the present. They describe the mental accommodation that future citizens will require, including the ability to make quantum leaps, take a global perspective, maintain a problem-solving orientation, and use flexible, adaptable decision-making strategies. Value will be placed on the ability to plan and direct the future for the betterment of the global community, rather than on the simple ability to adapt to unplanned changes that occur.
It has long been the role of education to assist society to develop the potential that it most highly values. As educators acknowledge the difficulty of preparing leaders for an unpredictable future, they begin to criticize and challenge the status quo of education. They realize that the education they necessarily must provide to gifted students must be on the leading edge of current educational practice.
In order to provide the kind of education that is appropriate to the needs of the gifted learner, a change in the conceptualization of education is required. Change focuses on those who are pushing back the boundaries of established practice. The education of gifted learners is one of the areas where the established parameters of educational practice are being changed. Making the necessary changes for gifted students is difficult because of the natural resistance to change, but also because the education these students need is perceived to be more difficult to provide today than at any previous time. The content of knowledge is expanding exponentially, the technology for processing information is becoming more complex, and the products of learning are becoming more rapidly obsolete. The challenge to educators remains unchanged. The world needs not only informed, but also intelligent, humanitarian leadership, and schools are still expected to develop the potential of gifted youth to meet the needs of society.
Concern with the lack of productivity among gifted individuals has prompted some educators to examine the equation that represents the transition from potential to actualization of talent. For many years developmental psychologists have attempted to determine factors that contribute to the development of inherent potential in gifted individuals. They have used interpersonal behaviours and judgments as developmental indicators. Prior studies in this domain have looked at individual factors such as intelligence, maturational development, and cognitive and psychomotor activities, singly or in combination, as predictors of mature productivity. Relatively few studies have investigated the nonintellective factors such as persistence, dedication, learning style, motivation, mind-set, lifestyle, and insight that contribute indispensably to success in intellectual activities. It appears that those interested in turning potential into demonstrated competence must take factors other than intelligence into consideration.
The work of Tannenbaum (1983) deals with the causal linkage between promise and fulfilment, using a formula that specifies nonintellective factors as one of the areas worthy of consideration. The Bloom and Sosniak (1981) study confirms the theory of the others such as Dabrowski, Kawczak, and Piechowski (1970) and Ogburn-Colangelo (1979) who identify affect as the most significant factor in productive behaviour.
Most educational research is primarily concerned with academic and non-academic achievement, where affective variables are considered as merely incidental, contributing factors in the equation that results in achievement. This disregard of affect is challenged by Hogan, Viernstein, McGinn, Bohannon, and Daurio (1977) who confirm some of Terman's (1925) earlier findings concerning gifted people, namely, that "above a certain level of tested intelligence the critical determinant of effective practical performance may be personality and biographical variables" (p. 107). Further support for the nonintellective variables is provided by McGuire, Hindsman, and King (1961) who suggest that the difference between effective and ineffective functioning resides in the personality characteristics of the producers. People who produce effectively are those who tap into their emotions, ineffective producers are those who are unable to respond to their emotions.
This study, set in the context of educational change and the needs of the gifted learner, is designed to examine the effects of combinations of nonintellective factors in conjunction with enhanced cognitive endowment, as possible linkages between potential and its fulfilment.
The Substantive Problem
The substantive question in this investigation is to determine which independent, nonintellective variables, or combinations of variables, produce the highest affective judgments.
Outline of Experiment
An affective judgment task was chosen to demonstrate the high level of response capability of gifted adolescents. Although a judgment task requires a high level of cognitive ability as defined by Bloom (1956), the emphasis in this experiment is on the affective (Kathwohl, Bloom & Masia, 1964) component of the task. An attempt was made to reduce the cognitive component of the task to a constant by selecting only subjects who have demonstrated a uniformly high level of cognitive ability.
Affective variables have been chosen from the literature pertaining to gifted learners, and have been systematically manipulated to determine whether they have any effect on the subjects' affective judgments.
Table of Contents
The literature review provides a cognitive map of the research that has been analyzed and synthesized to select the affective variables used in the creation of the affective judgment task. This review of the literature diverges from the traditional format in that it approaches the literature thematically and selects those studies that emphasize different aspects of the theme. The theme of this review is the nonintellective or affective components in the performance or productivity of the gifted adolescent.
It is not the intention of this research to debate the merits of any particular point along the continuum from total primacy of affect to total control by cognition, but rather to assume the validity of an affective perspective not as the preferable or only correct perspective, but as a window that allows insight into the process of human production including the process of assigning values. At issue is not whether affect is pre- or post-cognitive, but rather that affective variables in addition to the much-studied cognitive variables are worthy of consideration in a study of how potential can be developed in gifted adolescents.
Much research is available on the cognitive abilities of gifted learners, but the area of affective development is notably undersubscribed. A post 1980 search establishes that only a few authors including Colangelo (1982), Delisle (1982), Elgersma (1981), Karnes and Brown (1981), Nelson (1981), and Tan-Willman and Gutteridge (1981) have described the characteristics of gifted learners in the emotional-moral domain, which is within the framework of the affective domain. Altman (1983) constructs a research model to study the social-emotional development of gifted children, and Manastser and Powell (1983) develop a framework for understanding psychological maladjustment in gifted adolescents. These efforts to document the emotional development of gifted individuals hold promise for further research, but indicate a current lack of study in the field.
The work of Tannenbaum (1983) that provides a theoretical framework for understanding the linkage between promise and fulfilment in gifted individuals is relevant to this study. Tannenbaum's model develops the interaction of five factors that he believes contribute to the actualization of potential: 1) general intellectual ability; 2) specific aptitudes; 3) nonintellective factors; 4) environmental factors; and 5) chance. Of specific interest is the third category, nonintellective variables, which Tannenbaum explains in the following manner:
Conceptually, it is easy to distinguish between intellective and nonintellective factors in human functioning. One denotes the mental powers and processes needed to master or create ideas; the other refers to the social, emotional, and behavioral characteristics that can release or inhibit the full use of a person's abilities. (p.153)
It has been acknowledged throughout the literature in psychology that affect is one of the domains of humanity, generally paralleling the cognitive and motor domains. Affect is generally considered to be a causal factor, an energizer, that sets cognitive events in motion. It is also believed to play a role in the selection of goals by using personal preferences to focus attention. Affect is also believed to be the location of subjective feelings such as approach and avoidance, and is thought to contain self-expressive aspects.
The present experiment uses an affective judgment task as an indicator of the level of production subjects are capable of achieving, and assumes a high level cognitive ability, by definition, in a population of academically gifted adolescents. This research sets out to determine which affective variables, or combinations of them in conjunction with superior intellectual ability, result in the highest levels of production on the affective research task.
Review of the Six Affective Variables
The focus of the dissertation is on an assessment of the contribution of affect to the actualization of gifted potential. All independent variables examined in the study have curricular applications, because they represent components of the affective environment, a part of every learning experience.
The six affective variables used in the research design have been extracted from a review of the literature in five broad theoretical areas: 1) developmental psychology, particularly adolescent development; 2) theories and practices of counselling; 3) mind/brain research; 4) the nature and needs of the gifted adolescent learner; and 5) curriculum and instruction in gifted learner education. From these five theoretical bases six affective threads have been distilled to become the variables of the experimental design.
From developmental psychology comes the relevance of the ability to take the perspective of another as an indicator of maturity in personal development. This ability to empathize is viewed as a major affective component. Attention is drawn to its frequent association with gifted individuals.
From developmental psychology the second variable of sex-bias has been extracted. The work of Gilligan (1982) has been used to demonstrate that there might be a sex difference in the ultimate goal of personal development.
From the area of counselling theories and practices, the importance of providing people with the knowledge of their strengths and awareness of the signs of psychological growth are noted. When the purpose of the investigation is to determine which affective variables contributed most to high level affective judgment, it seems relevant that individuals should be empowered with an understanding of their own affective strengths.
The field of mind/brain research has contributed to the assessment of the role of affect in the fulfilment of promise. Contained within this field is information about the lateral functions of the brain, processes involved in preferences, cognitive and affective styles, personality types, and intuitive and creative thinking. Determining the influence of field dependency factors on the affective judgment level is one way to see whether preferences, styles, and types influence the outcome in the judgment task.
The nature of the gifted individual is another topic which has contributed to the investigation. From knowledge of the characteristics of gifted learners, it is possible to anticipate the concomitant educational needs of these students. One of the assumptions often made about gifted learners is that they have affective sensitivities on a par with their intellectual acuity. This research provided an opportunity for gifted subjects to demonstrate emotional sensitivity through an affective judgment task. Higher levels of judgment are believed to demonstrate higher levels of emotional sensitivity. In addition, issues of psychological androgyny can be used to illuminate and interpret the results.
Other commonly held beliefs about the intellectual abilities of gifted learners are also investigated through the variable of level. Ability to tolerate ambiguity is a factor in the affective judgment task. Subjects have been asked to justify a certain action when no consideration was given to whether the subjects agreed with the action taken. Gifted adolescents' ability to suspend judgment and remain open has been assumed. The affective variable of level also determines the level upon which the adolescent is functioning.
The final area of interest in the research is the curriculum development process that is being used by educators to meet the needs of gifted learners. It has been demonstrated that, in order to provide an appropriate educational experience for a gifted learner, it is necessary to involve the student at the affective level in the material that is to be learned. One way to do this is through the use of materials that have an issue of relevance to the students. This research uses the variable of type to determine the effects that different types of issues have on the level of the affective judgment response.
Statement of Hypotheses
Nine hypotheses were proposed following a review of the literature. All hypotheses contain references to a direction as predicted in the literature.
1) There will be a significant main effect of Sex. A sex difference in the subjects' level of affective judgment is anticipated. Because the research has been planned on a Kohlberg-type instrument, and because Gilligan's (1977) work suggests that females do not do as well as males on Kohlberg's rating scale, it is predicted that the females will choose lower level rationales compared to the males.
2) There will be a significant main effect of Type. It is speculated that the type of issue to be judged will cause a difference in the level of judgment achieved.
3) There will be a significant main effect of Field. The level of affective judgment is believed to be dependent on the context, or field, in which the story is set. It is predicted that subjects will be able to make higher level decisions if they are given information of a global, complex, and abstract nature rather than personal, simple, and concrete information.
4) There will be a significant main effect of Descriptor. It is expected that there will be a difference in the level of affective judgment depending on the kind of overexcitability descriptor that is used in the story. It is assumed that gifted students possess the two types of overexcitability that are used in this research; therefore, it is predicted that subjects will respond with generally higher affective judgments when there are emotional descriptors used in the stories.
5) There will be a significant main effect of Perspective. It is accepted that the subjects could take the perspective of another and maintain it consistently, in contrast to a self-perspective. Thus, it is hypothesized that the level of affective judgment will depend on the perspective from which the participant read the story. If gifted adolescents possess the ability to change and maintain perspectives there should be a definite difference in the way they perform on the judgment task. It is predicted that higher affective judgments will come from the first perspective or the self-perspective.
6) There will be a significant interaction effect between Sex and Perspective. It is predicted that there will be a difference in the level of affective judgment depending on the interaction between Sex and Perspective. This hypothesis is used to test Gilligan's (1982) belief that the females identify more readily with the persons affected by the decision in the story. Therefore, it is anticipated that the self-perspective of the females will more closely align with perspective two or three, rather than with perspective one which is assumed to be the perspective with which the males would most closely identify.
7) There will be a significant interaction effect between Sex and Field. It is expected that there will be a difference in the level of affective judgment depending on this interaction. From the literature it is hypothesized that there will be a difference in level of affective judgment between the sexes in favour of the males when the context is global, and in favour of the females when the context is personal.
8) There will be a significant interaction effect between Sex and Descriptor. This hypothesis predicts an interaction between sex and overexcitability descriptor in which females will do better when the descriptors are emotional and males will do better when the descriptors are intellectual.
9) There will be a significant interaction effect between Sex, Descriptor, and Perspective. It is anticipated that there will be a difference in the level of affective judgment based on the interaction between Sex, Descriptor, and Perspective. Females are predicted to score higher when they are emotionally involved and are placed in an empathic position taking the perspective of the victim, (perspective two or three). while males are predicted to score higher when given intellectual descriptors and asked to rate from the first or the self perspective.
Table of Contents
Following a random assignment of subjects to conditions, subjects were asked to read a story and rate the degree of appropriateness of each of six rationales to explain the action which was taken in the story. Subjects were asked to give ratings from four different perspectives. After completing the ratings of the six rationales from the four perspectives, the subjects were given a second story and the process was repeated. The total process required each subject to make 48 judgment responses.
Fifty gifted adolescent subjects participated in the study, including 22 females and 28 males. There were 11 females and 12 males in grade nine, and 11 females and 16 males in grade 10. This group, ranging in age from 14 to 16 years, came from a several high schools in a large urban, separate school system, where religious instruction was compulsory.
All subjects in the sample were designated as gifted students according to the following school jurisdiction criteria: 1) an individual I.Q. score above 130 on a WISC-R or Revised Stanford Binet, 2) a standardized achievement test score two years above actual grade placement, and 3) nomination by a teacher. These criteria elicited students who were intellectually gifted and academically successful.
Ethics of Subject Management
The project received approval from the Ethics Review Committee of the University of Regina. Standard procedures were used to guarantee anonymity to the subjects. Permission to involve students in the research was granted by the Director of Education of the school system. Students were invited to participate on a voluntary basis.
The materials designed for data collection were a set of eight stories each involving a value-laden dilemma and a resulting action, about which the subjects were expected to make an affective judgment. Each subject responded to only two of the eight stories. The stories were modeled on Kohlberg's (1976) Moral Dilemma series, in order to anchor the research in some well-accepted theory. The departure from the standard Kohlberg format consisted of the provision of a solution to the problem, a technique previously used by Rest (1979). Conclusions were provided to insure that the participants in the study did not have to make the moral decision, or provide words to exemplify their thoughts. According to Kohlberg (1976) it was the moral reasoning that determined the justification for the action, regardless of the nature of the action; therefore, providing the solution to the dilemma should not have changed the inherent nature of the moral reasoning used by the subjects.
Construction of the Levels
The first step was to provide a set of six rationales each characterizing one of Kohlberg's (1976) six levels of moral judgment. Subjects in the study were asked to rate each rationale, on a six point Likert-type scale, according to its degree of appropriateness to explain the behaviour in the story. The rationales were presented in random order.
Construction of the Four Perspectives
Four perspectives were selected which represented the characters commonly used in most of the Kohlberg-type stories. In each story the actors were identified and numbered. These numbers and identifiers were used to make the four perspectives clear to the subjects. Subjects were then asked to respond to the six rationale statements from each of the four perspectives.
Construction of the Variables
The following six variables were drawn from the literature.
1) Type - an independent variable used to determine whether the nature of the issue being addressed in the task has any bearing on the outcome. There were two subsections: 1 = Life versus Property; 2 = Rights versus Governance.
2) Field - an independent variable of contextual field used to determine whether placing a task in a global context or a personal context has an effect on the affective judgment. There were two subsections: 1 = Personal; 2 = Global.
3) Descriptor - an independent variable used to evoke a mind-set to determine whether cloaking the task in highly logical, analytic terms or emotional, subjective terms make a difference to the outcome. There were two subsections: 1 = Emotional; 2 = Intellectual.
4) Sex - an independent variable used to determine whether sex causes a bias in affective responses. There were two subsections: 1 = Male; 2 = Female.
5) Perspective - an independent variable used to determine whether the ability to empathize with another and demonstrate a shift in perspective as a result of that empathy produces higher responses. There were four subsections: 1 = perspective of the dominant/protector; 2 = perspective of the subordinate/invader; 3 = perspective of the dependent/protectee; 4 = self-perspective.
6) Level - a variable used 1) as an independent variable in the Six-way Anova to represent the six levels of moral reasoning used by Kohlberg (1976); and 2) as the dependent variable in the Five-way Anova, in combination with the "rating of appropriateness", to represent the degree of affective sophistication in the response. There were six subsections: Level 1 = Right is blind obedience to rules and authority, avoiding punishment, and not doing physical harm; Level 2 = Right is serving one's own or other's needs and making fair deals in terms of concrete exchange; Level 3 = Right is playing a good (nice) role, being concerned about other people and their feelings, keeping loyalty and trust with partners, and being motivated to follow rules and expectations; Level 4 = Right is doing one's duty in society, upholding the social order, and the welfare of society or the group; Level 5 = Right is upholding the basic rights, values and legal contracts of a society, even when they conflict with the concrete rules and laws of the group; Level 6 = Right is guidance by universal ethical principles that all humanity should follow.
The dependent variable in the experiment was Study Total Score. A scoring scheme was designed to rate the responses of participants to arrive at the total score.
Overview of the Analyses
The experimental research used a complete factorial design, and a mixed model Analysis of Variance involving some repeated measures. The design fulfilled the major requirements for use of the Analysis of Variance technique: 1) the subjects were randomly assigned to conditions; 2) six independent variables were systematically manipulated; and 3) interval scales of measurement were used. Homogeneity of variance was assumed.
The statistical processing of the research data involved the use of a Five-way Analysis of Variance; two Four-way Analyses of Variance with separate dependent variables; and appropriate Neuman-Keuls post-hoc analyses on all significant interaction effects in all Analyses of Variance. A critical value of p<.05 was established as the criterion by which statistical significance would be determined. A report on other statistical processes applied in the research, but not included in this summary, is available in the original work.
Table of Contents
The Five-way Analysis of Variance
Many of the substantive questions in the experiment were addressed statistically in the Five-way Analysis of Variance (Anova). The Five-way Anova determined the effects of the five independent variables of: Sex, Type, Field, Descriptor, and Perspective on the dependent variable of affective judgment, as rated by the subject's Study Total Score.
In summary, significant main effects were demonstrated in the Five-way Analysis of Variance for:
There were also five significant interaction effects, presented in decreasing magnitude, including:
Sex by Descriptor, F(1,84)=7.27,p<.01;
Sex by Field by Type by Descriptor by Perspective, F(3,252)=5.12, p<.01;
Sex by Field by Type by Descriptor, F(1,84)=4.15, p<.05;
Sex by Descriptor by Perspective, F(3,252)=3.22,p<.05;
Type by Perspective, F(3,252)=2.84,p<.05.
The seven significant findings in the Five-way Anova caused the generic null-hypothesis to be rejected.
Results of the Specific Hypotheses
The specific hypotheses of the Five-way Analysis of Variance predicted:
1) There would be a main effect of Sex. (Rejected).
2) There would be a main effect of Type. (Rejected).
3) There would be a main effect of Field. (Supported).
4) There would be a significant main effect of Descriptor. (Rejected).
5) There would be a significant main effect of Perspective. (Supported).
Assuming interaction effects the specific hypotheses continued as follows:
6) There would be a significant interaction effect of Sex and Perspective. (Rejected).
7) There would be a significant interaction effect of Sex and Field. (Rejected).
8) There would be a significant interaction effect of Sex and Descriptor. (Supported).
9) There would be a significant interaction effect of Sex, Descriptor and Perspective. (Supported).
Significant Results From the Five-way Anova For Which There Were No Hypotheses
There was a significant (p<.05) Sex by Field by Type by Descriptor interaction involving 16 means. Subjects in the study gave the lowest judgment when males were presented with global, Civil Rights versus Governance, intellectual stories, and the highest judgment when females were presented with global, Life versus Property, intellectual stories. The Newman-Keuls analysis showed that all but 25 of the 120 comparisons were significant.
The second unpredicted significant (p<.05) result was in the Type by Perspective interaction involving eight means. The action was judged to be based on the lowest level rationale when the subjects in the study were given a Life versus Property story and were asked to rate from the second perspective. They gave their highest ratings when the stories were a Life versus Property type rated from the first perspective.
The final significant (p<.01) interaction in the Five-way Analysis of Variance was the five-way interaction between Sex, Field, Type, Descriptor, and Perspective involving 64 means.
Table of Contents
The first significant (p<.01) finding is the predicted main effect of Field. The Newman-Keuls Analysis shows that subjects perform in a superior fashion on the experimental task when the story is set in a global context. This finding is consistent with one of the claims of gifted learner education. It has long been accepted that gifted students have "global" thinking abilities. Much of current curriculum practice for gifted learners is based on the assumption that these students do have superior functioning ability in a global context. This piece of research does not make a definitive statement, but has illuminated an aspect of global thinking ability.
Global thinking ability and thinking in a global context are slightly different concepts. Global thinking refers to the ability to see the big picture, think divergently, to understand concepts intuitively, in their fullest dimension. It is similar to a gestalt conceptualization, or a holistic viewpoint, which integrates perception, feelings, and understandings. By contrast, thinking in a global context is a limited application of global thinking. Global context deals with the scope of thinking, describing the parameters that include thinking on a larger or broader scope, about bigger issues, involving concern for humanity, with higher order implications.
The antithesis of global thinking, as used in this research, is personal thinking, which is involuted, smaller in scope, less comprehensive in effect, self-centred, and limited in implications. Thinking in the personal context requires the sequential, componential, convergent, concrete, and immediate thinking ability.
It is the intent of this research to examine the belief that gifted learners have a superior ability to use the global thinking ability that has been associated with the right side of the brain (Clark, 1983; Herrmann, 1981). The use of the global context for the stories is one way to begin to tap into the use of this type of brain function. The results of the Five-way Anova show that the subjects produce higher "Study Total Scores" when the stories are placed in a global context. These results, although they can be subjected to multiple interpretations, encourage further research on this type of thinking ability and may ultimately help to define gifted learners in a new way.
Certainly, as far as curriculum development for gifted learners is concerned, the implications of this finding are clear. Intellectually gifted adolescents have demonstrated that their affective judgments are enhanced when the situations in which they are expected to make judgments are complete with greater complexity and scope. Part of the societal need for leadership hinges on the ability of leaders to make good affective judgments. In the educational process, where responsibility for development of the next generation of leadership resides, it is imperative that this information be used, and that efforts be made to provide a global context for all "issue-relevant" thinking.
The second predicted, significant (p<.01 ) result is the main effect of Perspective. Specific hypothesis five predicts that "higher affective judgments come from the first perspective or the self-perspective." There are significant differences between mean "Study Total Scores" for all four perspectives, with perspective two, the subordinate/intruder, having the lowest average rating and perspective one, the dominant/protector, having the highest average rating.
The fact that there are significant differences between each of the four perspectives vis-a-vis the "Study Total Score" suggests that the subjects understood and were able to follow the instructions to shift perspective. Piaget (1965) and Kohlberg (1976) suggest that a certain level of development is required before an individual can shift perspective, and to the extent that these results show the subject's ability to do the task they seem to show that this group of subjects has reached this level.
In examining the relationship between the perspectives, it can be seen that the self-perspective is closest to, although significantly different from, the perspective of the dependent/protectee and the perspective of the dominant/protector in the story. Self-perspective is most distant from that of the subordinate/intruder. The significant differences show that the subjects treat the perspectives differently, as they had been requested.
The third predicted significant (p<.01) interaction effect of Sex by Descriptor is the original hypothesis eight. All differences between the four conditions are statistically significant. Females with intellectual descriptors perform the best on the task, followed by the males with emotional descriptors. Females with emotional descriptors are in third place, and males with intellectual descriptors perform the poorest.
These results are contrary to the stereotypical role images frequently held of the sentimental, sensitive female who deals more effectively and comfortably with emotional material, and the logical, unemotional male who deals more effectively with the rational, intellectual domain.
The work of Dabrowski (1972) suggests that the overexcitabilities have a hierarchical structure, in which emotional overexcitability is the uppermost. There is some disagreement about whether Dabrowski intended the hierarchy, or whether the translators and interpreters of his work have confused the issue. Part of this research is designed to assess the correctness of the hierarchical arrangement of the overexcitabilities. If there is any substance to the concept of a hierarchy there should be a difference between intellectual and emotional overexcitability, showing the superiority of emotional. The results of the Sex by Descriptor interaction show that for the males in the subject sample, emotional descriptors are more effective that intellectual descriptors in bringing about higher affective judgments. The results with the females, who perform better with the intellectual descriptors, do not support the hypothesized superiority of emotional overexcitabilities.
Whether Dabrowski (1972), like Kohlberg (1976), was thinking about the male experience, and generalizing to the female condition is not known. Dabrowski (1964), in his practice of psychiatry, worked with female clients and wrote about females in some of his case studies. Dabrowski and Piechowski (1977) cite Mother Theresa of Calcutta as an example of the highest level of development demonstrating that they believe women are capable of reaching high level development.
Follow-up work has been done by Silverman and Schuppin (1981) on the ratings of females on Dabrowski's levels of development. The results of this study show that women as a general rule do not rise above level two, or the transition from level two to three. This important evidence from Silverman and Schuppin lends weight to concerns that Dabrowski's work has the same male bias that Kohlberg's work contains. The results of this study might guide further investigation of the overexcitabilities to determine whether there is a male bias in this concept.
The fourth, predicted, significant (p<.05) effect occurs in the Sex by Descriptor by Perspective interaction. Specific hypothesis nine predicts a significant interaction such that "females are predicted to score higher when they are emotionally involved and are placed in an empathetic position, taking the perspective of the victim (perspective two or three), while males are predicted to score higher when they are given intellectual descriptors and are asked to rate from the first or self-perspective."
The results of the interaction show that males, given intellectual descriptors and asked to rate from perspective three produce the lowest "Study Total Scores." By contrast, females using intellectual descriptors and rating from the self-perspective produce the highest "Study Total Scores." These findings are inconsistent with the predicted superiority of males in the realm of intellectual matters. Males make the best judgments when they are given emotional descriptors and asked to judge from the dominant/protector perspective.
The best showing by males is surpassed in two cases by females and appears only in the second highest grouping of judgment means. This same set of findings also contradicts the popular belief that women are most comfortable with the dependent/protectee role making decisions from the emotional domain. The results show that females, given intellectual descriptors and asked to rate from the self-perspective and then from the dominant/protector perspective, produce the most superior judgments in the experiment. This may be indicative of a radical change in the social order of this generation, a deliberate outcome of the womens' liberation movement. The movement has systematically raised awareness of the socialization process which has kept females in a passive, dependent position. Many women are now in the position of the dominant/protector, as single parent heads of families, and have acquired the attributes required to fulfil the role. They have confidence in their own judgments. The young women in this experiment have been raised in an era unique in history in terms of role expectations for females. This is the first generation of women who have the right of equality by law. Ancient socialization rites have not been abandoned, but an educated, informed western society no longer performs them with impunity. Perhaps the results found with intellectually gifted females in this experiment contain the kind of information required to promote a more universal acceptance of the competencies of females in the cognitive domain.
Table of Contents
The results contained within this study present important messages to all educators, but particularly to educators of gifted learners.
The high level affective judgements performed by gifted adolescents have been shown to be influenced by material presented in a global, holistic way. It should be possible in the educational curriculum to provide materials and examples that stimulate holistic learning, upon which good affective judgments can be made. Following Dabrowski's basic premise regarding learning it should be possible to provide more global experiences to foster intellectual and emotional reorganization at a more sophisticated level.
Subjects also make their highest level affective judgments when asked to think about the situation from the perspective of a dominant/protector, or from the self- perspective. Asking students to deliberately assume another perspective gives them an opportunity to develop empathy, understanding of the conditions of another, and other-centredness. This tactic also encourages the development of higher order perspectives, unifying points of view, evaluation and decision-making skills, and mature moral reasoning. It is generally agreed that persons possessing these characteristics exhibit the highest levels of human development. To foster this high level human development it is desirable to have multi-dimensional and multilevel learning materials and learning experiences to encourage the deliberate selective comparisons of various perspectives.
The Sex by Descriptor interaction effects in the study demonstrate that females make their best affective judgments when they are given intellectual descriptors, and males judge most appropriately when provided with emotional descriptors. These results question some of the old stereotypes regarding "rational males" and "emotional females." Considering this educators should make a conscientious effort to provide educational materials that incorporate both intellectual and emotional triggers, such as visualization, simulation, and role playing, to allow each sex to select the descriptors that will permit the best affective judgment. The results point so strongly to the reversal of the stereotypical image of males and females, that it seems incumbent upon teachers to assist young people to attend to the descriptors that they might be socialized to ignore.
As a spin-off from the last point, efforts should be made to support students who demonstrate psychological androgyny because this quality has the potential to promote greater understanding between the sexes. Designing curricular materials that encourage psychological androgyny dovetails with the efforts to eradicate sexist materials from the curriculum.
Certainly, the interaction of Sex and Descriptor and Perspective means that educators should further encourage young people to be aware of the powerful effect of combinations of factors on their judgment ability. Encouraging adolescents to consider options very deliberately from different perspectives, assuming different psychological roles could assist them greatly in their decision-making capacity.
The results of the study also can be interpreted to support the current practice of seeking mentors for gifted adolescents. This deliberate attempt to expose gifted youth to an alternate perspective is based on the Kohlberg (1976) premise that people can understand and appreciate the moral position of an individual who is one level higher in personal development. If educators subscribe to this theory they will make it imperative to expose gifted learners to individuals whose perspectives are one or more levels of development ahead of the students.
Providing learning examples that demonstrate a higher level of development than the students' current functioning level enhances the gifted adolescents' global perspective, and corresponds to the teachings of Kohlberg (1976). Studies with a global, holistic emphasis provide a framework within which to demonstrate the highest levels of affective reasoning, in a manner that could be understood and appreciated by gifted adolescents. The point justifies intensive interdisciplinary humanities for gifted students, perhaps involving courses in classical literature, the great books, or bibliotherapy. In such courses students could be given the opportunities to study the life and character of eminent individuals and select appropriate role models for their own development.
Another implication is that gifted youth must have an opportunity to operationalize their theoretical understandings. If there is a discrepancy between moral judgment and moral behaviour, then opportunities must be provided for students to practise the confluence of high level moral judgment and high level moral behaviour. When belief and behaviour are synonymous the pinnacle of human development has been attained. Dabrowski (1972) claims that the way to the highest levels of human development is by means of all overexcitabilities. At the present time educators do not provide much curricular material that deals with affective experiences through the overexcitabilities. Because it has been demonstrated that there is a significant interaction effect of Sex and (overexcitability) Descriptors in making higher level affective decisions. It can be reasoned that educators should provide more of these affective descriptors. The overexcitability channels allow extra stimulation into the organism, which in turn produces conflict. Conflict is the mechanism by which disequilibrium occurs, and the resolution of the disequilibrium produces learning. Thus to enhance the learning ability of gifted students it is desirable to provide curricular materials rich in overexcitability stimulators.
The necessity of providing "issue-relevant" thinking opportunities is also underscored by the results of this study. Gifted adolescents of both sexes have demonstrated their ability to make a high quality judgment when they are offered an emotional issue that is relevant to them. Educators could use this finding to translate the learning task into an issue that is relevant to the students, and to provide the opportunity for the students to become involved in the pros and cons of the situation. Greater retention of learning can be expected when students have been involved in using the information (Lipp & Saas, 1983), and nothing involves them more than when they have a vested interest in the issue.
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There are a number of affective variables that influence the judgment of gifted adolescents. These findings have been explored and interpreted in the light of the implications they may have for educators, particularly educators of gifted learners.
The goal of providing quality educational experiences to maximize the potential of all learners is the cornerstone of education today. For educators of gifted learners the goal is one that has many facets unique to the learner. The needs of these students and the education practices designed to meet these needs are often at the leading edge of current pedagogical practice. As with any innovation and the resulting required change in behaviour, participants want more information and proof of the need for the change. This piece of research has supplied additional information about the nonintellective factors that may be a link between promise and fulfilment in gifted learners.
Results of this research are interpreted as supporting current beliefs about gifted learners including: emotional sensitivity, preference for complexity, ability to change perspective, psychological androgyny, resistance to stereotyping, high level thinking ability, preference for relevance, and toleration for ambiguity. Confirmation of these affective characteristics is worthwhile in and of itself, but the specific effect of some of these affective components on the actual productions of gifted adolescents is valuable information. Furthermore, the educational practices that address the affective components of the learning process will further endorse and empower gifted adolescents with their own abilities and enhance their efforts to develop those abilities.
In the pursuit of excellence, awareness of the integrated operation of affect and cognition should ensure that gifted people, who have the greatest potential for productivity, will be assisted in actualizing that potential through provision of an appropriately rich emotional and intellectual educational milieu.
Evidence has been gathered to show that affective components such as perspective shifts, global understandings, overexcitability descriptors, and issue relevant thinking have a significant influence on the affective judgment ability of gifted adolescents. The belief that appropriate affective components have a legitimate right in the educational environment of the gifted adolescent and ought to be fostered in tandem with high level cognition has been supported by this research.
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