Duke TIP Researchers Find That Academically Talented Students View “Intelligence” and “Giftedness” Differently

Date: 
Thursday, August 27, 2015

For Immediate Release
Katy Munger
(919) 668-9153 kmunger@tip.duke.edu

DURHAM, NC—Although "intelligence" and "giftedness" are often used interchangeably to describe the potential of academically talented students, a new study by Duke TIP researchers shows that students do not necessarily view the two terms as interchangeable.

A survey of Duke TIP participants revealed that many students tended to view intelligence as malleable—and thus capable of being increased through effort and appropriate experiences—but tended to view giftedness as more fixed. However, there was huge variability in beliefs about both terms, with some students believing both giftedness and intelligence were malleable and other students believing they were both fixed traits. The study was co-authored by Matt Makel, Chandler Thomas, and Martha Putallaz of Duke TIP as well as Patrick Malone and Kate E. Snyder. It can read in its entirety at Gifted Child Quarterly.

These findings are important because many assume that the term “giftedness” refers to an inborn trait that doesn’t change. Previous research has shown that holding such “fixed” beliefs can influence goals and behaviors. However, the present findings show that not everyone believes giftedness is fixed; many believe that it can be developed. The results also suggests that caution should be exercised when using terms like giftedness and intelligence, because not everyone views the terms in the same way.

“Our results contradict some pretty firmly held assumptions by many in the field of gifted education,” Makel explains. “I think one of the most important conclusions we can take away from the study is that we need to be careful about the messages we convey to students and remain mindful of their views of these terms. Just because we may think of intelligence and giftedness in certain ways does not mean that others think about these terms the same way.”

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About Duke TIP: The Duke University Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving academically talented youth. As a global leader in gifted education, Duke TIP works with students, families, and educators to identify, recognize, challenge, engage, and support gifted youth in reaching their highest potential. More than 2.5 million students have benefited from TIP programs and resources since 1980. Duke TIP’s talent identification, academic, and research programs now serve as worldwide models for the education of gifted students.