Title

LATENT DEVELOPMENT OF OUTSTANDING ABILITIES: A STUDY OF GIFTED ADULTS WHOSE ABILITIES WERE NOT EVIDENT DURING CHILDHOOD

Date of Completion

January 1984

Keywords

Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

This study investigates the development of outstanding ability into accomplishment in a sample population of five adults who did not show evidence of such ability during childhood. It also establishes baseline information for the continued qualitative study of individuals in this subset of gifted adults. The study focuses on (1) early environmental and cultural influences on development, (2) elements that affect the concentration of effort toward outstanding accomplishment, and (3) precursors to later dispositions to learn and act.^ The five adults represent expertise in medicine, science, leadership, fine arts, and technology. The methodology included oral history interviews centering on present work and accomplishment, early school experiences, interactions with others, and personal ways of looking at the world. Phenomenological analysis was used to locate invariants of perception within and among individuals. Essential meanings were derived from the invariants for each research question.^ Conclusions. (1) The individuals found satisfaction through such environmental influences as informal learning experiences (hands-on ways of learning and doing), interactions with the natural environment, and such cultural influences as early role models who taught by example, and later mentors and/or heroes who motivated them toward an interest. (2) Elements that affected concentration of efforts toward outstanding achievement are internally generated motivation, increasingly complex interests, determination to act, and humility that allowed going beyond self-gratification and limits set by others. (3) Precursors to later dispositions to learn and act are based on influences listed above. They are seen as increments of success in even the smallest of tasks (the source of success shifts over time from others to the individual), the observation and appreciation of successful systems, a preference for trial-and-error attempts to solve problems, and the ability to change, adapt, and improve upon systems, despite opposition. ^