Above-Average General Ability

[The first cluster of traits of the three-ring model of giftedness is above-average general ability.]

Although the influence of intelligence, as traditionally measured, quite obviously varies with areas of achievement, many researchers have found that creative accomplishment is not necessarily a function of measured intelligence. In a review of several research studies dealing with the relationship between academic aptitude tests and professional achievement, M. A. Wallach has concluded that:

Above intermediate score levels, academic skills assessments are found to show so little criterion validity as to be a questionable basis on which to make consequential decisions about students' futures. What the academic tests do predict are the results a person will obtain on other tests of the same kind.5

Wallach goes on to point out that academic test scores at the upper ranges -- precisely the score levels that are most often used for selecting persons for entrance into special programs -- do not necessarily reflect the potential for creative/productive accomplishment. He suggests that test scores be used to screen out persons who score in the lower ranges and that beyond this point decisions be based on other indicators of potential for superior performance.

Numerous research studies support Wallach's finding that there is little relationship between test scores and school grades on the one hand and real world accomplishments on the other.6 In fact, a study dealing with the prediction of various dimensions of achievement among college students, made by J. L. Holland and A. W. Astin, found that

... getting good grades in college has little connection with more remote and more socially relevant kinds of achievement; indeed, in some colleges, the higher the student's grades, the less likely it is that he is a person with creative potential. So it seems desirable to extend our criteria of talented performance.7

A study by the American College Testing Program titled "Varieties of Accomplishment After College: Perspectives on the Meaning of Academic Talent" concluded:

The adult accomplishments were found to be uncorrelated with academic talent, including test scores, high school grades, and college grades. However, the adult accomplishments were related to comparable high school nonacademic (extracurricular) accomplishments. This suggests that there are many kinds of talents related to later success which might be identified and nurtured by educational institutions.8

The pervasiveness of this general finding is demonstrated by D. P. Hoyt, who reviewed 46 studies dealing with the relationship between traditional indications of academic success and post-college performance in the fields of business, teaching, engineering, medicine, scientific research, and other areas such as the ministry, journalism, government, and miscellaneous professions.9 From this extensive review, Hoyt concluded that traditional indications of academic success have no more than a very modest correlation with various indicators of success in the adult world. He observes, "There is good reason to believe that academic achievement (knowledge) and other types of educational growth and development are relatively independent of each other."

These studies raise some basic questions about the use of tests in making selection decisions. The studies clearly indicate that vast numbers and proportions of our most productive persons are not those who scored at the ninety-fifth or above percentile on standardized tests, nor were they necessarily straight-A students who discovered early how to play the lesson-learning game! In other words, more creative/productive persons come from below the ninety-fifth percentile than above it, and if such cut-off scores are needed to determine entrance into special programs, we may be guilty of actually discriminating against persons who have the greatest potential for high levels of accomplishment.


5. M. A. Wallach, "Tests Tell Us Little About Talent." American Scientist, vol. 64, 1976, p. 57.

6. M. B. Parloff et al., "Personality Characteristics Which Differentiate Creative Male Adolescents and Adults." Journal of Personality, vol. 36, 1968, pp.528-52; M. T. Mednick, "Research Creativity in Psychology Graduate Students." Journal of Consulting Psychology, vol. 27, 1963, pp. 265, 266; M. A. Wallach and C. W. Wing, Jr., The Talented Students: A Validation of the Creativity Intelligence Distinction (New York : Holi, Rinehart and Winston. 1969); J. M. Richards. Jr. et al., "Prediction of Student Accomplishment in College," Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 58, 1967, pp. 343-55; L. R. Harmon, "The Development of a Criterion of Scientific Competence," in C. W. Taylor and F. Barron. eds., Scientific Creativity: Its Recognition and Development (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1963), pp. 44-52; B. S. Bloom, "Report on Creativity Research by the Examiner's Office of the University of Chicago," in Taylor and Barron op cit.; and L. Hudson, "Degree Class and Attainment in Scientific Research," British Journal of Psychology, vol. 51, 1960, pp. 67-73.

7. J . L. Holland and A. W. Astin, "The Prediction of the Academic, Artistic, Scientific, and Social Achievement of Undergraduates of Superior Scholastic Aptitude," Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 53, 1962, pp. 132, 133.

8. L. A. Munday and J. C. Davis, Varieties of Accomplishment After College: Perspectives on the Meaning of Academic Talent, Research Report No. 6 (Iowa City, Ia.: American College Testing Program, 1974), p. 2.

9. D. P. Hoyt, The Relationship Between College Grades and Adult Achievement: A Review of the Literature, Research Report No. 7 (Iowa City, Ia.: American College Testing Program, 1965).

-- Joseph S. Renzulli

from "What Makes Giftedness? Reexamining a Definition"

Quoted on Fri Jul 6th, 2012