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Title page for ETD etd-07062005-164244

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Webb, Rose Mary
Author's Email Address rosemary.webb@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07062005-164244
Title Trait Constellations in Intellectually Able Adolescents: Distinct Preference Patterns and Educational Choices at Contrasting Levels of Spatial Ability
Degree PhD
Department Psychology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Professor Camilla P. Benbow Committee Co-Chair
Professor David Lubinski Committee Co-Chair
Professor Georgine M. Pion Committee Member
Professor Niels G. Waller Committee Member
Professor Patrick W. Thompson Committee Member
  • preferences
  • intelligence
  • gifted education
  • talent search
  • math-science pipeline
  • spatial ability
Date of Defense 2005-06-17
Availability unrestricted
Mathematical and verbal abilities have been considered in talent searches and educational programming for intellectually talented youth for more than three decades; however, although the relevance of spatial ability has been observed in a variety of educational and vocational choices and outcomes for older populations, its importance in talent development for intellectually gifted youth has only recently begun to be appreciated. Because spatially gifted students have not been identified or studied extensively, our educational system may not be prepared to meet their unique educational needs. Efforts combining ability and preference dimensions have augmented our understanding of the development of mathematically or verbally gifted adolescents; therefore, this more integrative approach was utilized here.

The preference profiles of adolescents with high spatial abilities exhibited many of the same characteristics as the profiles of same-sex MSE graduate students, including high theoretical values and interests in science and math, suggesting that spatially gifted students might constitute an untapped pool of future scientific talent. Next, a series of discriminant function analyses (DFA) used spatial ability and preferences (either values or interests) to predict criterion group membership (in science-math, humanities, or other categories) along a series of 5-year longitudinally assessed developmental choices. Within each DFA, a strong and consistent first function emerged, which exhibited high correlations with spatial ability, and theoretical and reversed social preferences. Finally, a parallel set of DFAs utilized preferences and markers of three specific abilities (mathematical, verbal, and spatial) for a subset of participants. A robust function emerged, similar to those found earlier, with positive correlations with spatial and mathematical abilities, and theoretical and reversed social preferences. This cluster of traits, in place in early adolescence, repeatedly demonstrated its relevance to math- and science-related pursuits, readily distinguishing science-math criterion groups from humanities and other groups. The findings documented here have both scientific and applied implications: They enhance our understanding of the nature of intellectual talent, and they also can be used to inform the design of appropriate educational opportunities for spatially gifted students.

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