Re: Howe Comms 10-12 Tesch-Romer Trehub Vitouch

From: Parker Bronwyn (
Date: Mon Feb 23 1998 - 15:33:43 GMT

Reply to K. Parish on Howe Comms 10-12 Tesch-Romer Trehub Vitouch

> Also on the institutional level "attributed talent" serves an
> important function. There are elaborated procedures of identifying
> individuals with high potential, and allocation of ressources often
> is based on promising future potential. Indeed, only if the
> individual and the surrounding support network is convinced that
> talent is waiting to arise to full capacity, individuals will begin
> training early in life, devote tremendous time to relevant
> activities, and money is spent on teachers and equipment.

kp> This raises the question of whether some pupils by attributed talent
kp> in schools may get extra attention to the detrimant of classmates
kp> where this is not appropriate. Perhaps it's not so useful.

bp> from this it would seem a logical step to take to assume that some
bp> talents might therfore develop from an initialy mildl attribute due
bp> to the extra attention to that individual from teachers and parents
bp> etc. This extra attention means that the child is told it is
bp> "talented' so has more confidence and motivation to practive, is more
bp> encouraged, is given more advantages and in general a more conducive
bp> environment in which to 'grow' a talent.

> belief in talent is an important factor of the motivation to practice
> over
> extended periods of time. Moreover, since success is not swiftly
> reached and temporary drawbacks are not infrequent during the course
> of expertise development, the belief in hidden potentials might
> support novices during occasions of doubt and propel them to
> continuing endeavor (Seligman, Nolen-Hoeksema, Thorton & Thorton,
> 1990). Interestingly, even final failure may not invalidate the
> belief in the potential of a person, since necessary conditions
> never guarantee success. In the case of failure, talent might not
> have blossomed for a variety reasons: Laziness, bad luck, or adverse
> circumstances. Convictions regarding the existence of talent and
> talented children may not necessarily be changed even facing defeat.

kp> This approach could also prove to bedetrimental to development as not
kp> seeing failings of the self may cause faults to go uncorrected.
kp> And therfore talent does not fully mature and reach it's optimum
kp> potential.

kp> What happens when the person finally realises that they are in fact
kp> not talented (assuming there is such a thing)? Will this lead to a
kp> much increased sense of failure or loss, it appears to be more of a
kp> short rather than long term solution to confidence.

bp> I think that there is such a thing as an inndivudual realizing
bp> that they are not talented, this is not cut and dried and is a
bp> continuous measurement. It usually happens when they find someone who
bp> is better than they are or more talented within their particular
bp> domain. This associates with the compatition and confidence
bp> influences in 'talent'. However, belief in oneself as talented is
bp> different to actually being talented.

kp> There is no possibility of ever producing anything which equates to a
kp> mathematical or firmly predictive model of exceptional acheivement.
kp> More than the academic past of the individuals is required. Even if
kp> all the cultural and social factors could be accounted for then there
kp> would still be a void as during any person's life there are likely to
kp> be a ceratin number of traumatic or significant life events (eg death
kp> of close friend/family, bad accidents) it would be foolish to assume
kp> that these will have no effect on the person's ongoing behaviour.

bp> Human experiences are far too varied to ever develop a measure
bp> which could be applied to all individuals. Any variable will play
bp> different roles and exert different influences depending upon the
bp> individual.

kp> Trehub and Scheelenberg
kp> Cultural determinism and biological determinism

kp> Whethere these unusual abilities are a result of talent or not is
kp> irrelevant in many respects. The variables are so diverse and so
kp> great in number that we can never hope to measure them. Besides if
kp> these special abilities are so rare they are also likely to be very
kp> individual and hence common factors may not even be an appropriate
kp> way of measuring potential anyway.

bp> Would common factors apply accross diferent domains at all?

> Suppose extraordinary skills can be achieved only if talent, as
> indexed by unusual early skills (relative to age-mates) without
> unusual exposure, is noticed, nurtured (i.e., parental
> encouragement, skilled instructors, and intensive practice), and
> accompanied by personality factors that foster the expression of
> exceptional ability.

kp> As noted by Howe et al. many parents believed that they had not
kp> necessarily given their children extra encouragement but this relied
kp> on delayed report of the child's upbringing widely recognised as not
kp> being the most reliable source of data in any research.

bp> Surely parental input is a fundam,ental factor in the development
bp> and nurture of any talent? For example sport; in tennis it is very
bp> important to start teaching the child from an early age to develop
bp> the technique which comes from the innate talent of hand-eye
bp> coordination and having a 'good eye for the ball'. The parents must
bp> therfore play a role in sending the child to lessons or encouraging
bp> him/her to play,e.g. by buying a raquet, maybe before they are aware
bp> of any existing talent. It seems important that the parents should
bp> take an interest in their child to start with. How many professional
bp> sports people come from a home where they were neglected?

> Definitive evidence for either side would require programming the
> lives of talented children so that all potentially relevant
> environmental factors could be controlled. In short, the question
> may >not be amenable to empirical analysis.

kp> This should have been obvious a long time ago. There is no way that
kp> we can hope to control our environment. You cannot interfere with
kp> everyday events (fate or whatever you want to call it) to the extent
kp> that I believe you would need to.

bp> I think that it is also important to consider that exceptional
bp> children often lead very disrupted lives anyway and to interfere for
bp> the 'sake of science' would only highlight the child's differences
bp> from its peers.

kp> Vitouch The rage to drink

> As Sternberg (1996)
> convincingly states, it is everybody's everyday experience that
> people practice where they are good at and succeed, and stop
> practicing when they feel they better invested their time elsewhere.

kp> Not perhaps as sensible as it sounds. Take sports as an example at
kp> the top of most sports there are a group of people who are of similar
kp> ability, most of them will train to eliminate their weaknesses more
kp> than to accentuate what they are good at.

bp> But his is only when they have reached the top of their sport and
bp> have made a career out of their talent. Form a less developed view,
bp> before an individual has worked on or tried to develop a talent, then
bp> I would agree with Sterberg.

> because the really interesting question is why he did, and why
> did he of all people and the others did not? Why do some people
> drink (or practice) voluntarily, enduringly, persistently and, if
> you want, deliberately? And do some people have a "rage to master"
> (Winner 1996) like others have a "rage to drink"? This parable
> (should you dislike alcoholism, take adipositas) shows that the
> expertise vs. talent discussion resembles various nature-nurture
> problems: Clinical concepts of vulnerability could be understood as
> the negative counterpart to concepts of talent.

kp> I'm not convinced by this-alcoholism is not a skill for the most part
kp> it is an addiction in a biological as well as mental sense, to my
kp> mind this is not the same thing as desire to be a cello virtuoso. It
kp> does not ion itself require a refined set of either physical or ment
kp> al skills..

bp> I would agree in that I am neither convinced by this . There is a
bp> large family link to alcoholism, e'g if either parent is an
bp> alcoholic, can this also be applied to talent? Alcoholism is not
bp> generally something encouraged by parents, teachers, society,etc,
bp> whereas being a cello virtuoso generally is.

> . "Untalented" can be a devastating label, but
> "talented" can be a stimulating and inspiring one.

kp> Unless the next thing is abject failure in which case you are out of
kp> excuses and this may in turn cause loss of motivation, self esteem
kp> etc.

> Looking at tennis again, the international competition is so hard
> nowadays that the best twenty players in the world all have the best
> trainers available and spend the maximum possible amount of
> training. Nevertheless, only one of them is number one. Again, the
> deliberate practice approach is inattentive to these differences
> within the expert group.

kp> Individual factors on the day, self belief, 'the zone' (a state of
kp> mind both described and measured in a number of top sports persons
kp> where they are in a waking state w.r.t. their senses and their 'mind'
kp> is ina state approaching deep sleep.)

bp> How motivated are the players within their individual and
bp> personal lives? No-one will ever always win all their matches!

> "quest for the gifted."

kp> Is this desirable anyway, to take away prematurely a childhood for
kp> the sake of showing off a gifted child and to single thewm out
kp> fromtheir social worlds.

bp> in conclusion, often 'the world of the talented is a lonely one'.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:19 GMT