Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Research Cognition and Development

First Committee Member

Eunsook Hong

Second Committee Member

Michael Nussbaum

Third Committee Member

CarolAnne Kardash

Fourth Committee Member

Linda Quinn

Number of Pages



There is an abundance of literature on young individuals who show early signs of talent and on older individuals who have demonstrated their abilities throughout the years. This research aims to look at those individuals who are in between, that is, graduate students who have the demonstrated potential to achieve within their fields of study. This study explored backgrounds of talented individuals in their adolescent period and their current measures of cognitive abilities. A total of 38 graduate students majoring in the areas of art (n= 12), science (n= 12), and education (n= 14) were used as examples of individuals who displayed at least a minimal level of talent. Several indicators from three higher order factors that may impact talent development were investigated: cognitive ability (analytical-thinking and creative-thinking abilities), personal-psychological attributes (goal orientation, effort, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, interest, and self-efficacy), and social-environmental factors (school, family, and social environments). Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected to capture students' background and experiences. Analytical-thinking ability, verbal creative-thinking ability, motivational attributes, and environmental factors all demonstrated differences among at least two of the three groups, suggesting that gifted individuals from the three domains have varied cognitive abilities and that they perceived themselves having different levels of motivation and/or different levels and types of experiences during their adolescence, although there were similarities on some aspects. These variations across groups indicate that there may be differential developmental trajectories among individuals talented or potentially talented in different domains. Correlation coefficients between analytical-thinking abilities and both verbal and non-verbal creative-thinking abilities were small, with an exception of the science majors, who demonstrated moderately large relationships between analytical-thinking and creative-thinking abilities. The pattern indicates that creative-thinking ability is not dependent upon analytical-thinking ability or vice versa and that evaluating potentially talented students only on their analytical abilities (i.e., IQ), will likely exclude some creatively talented individuals. However, the positive relationship in science majors suggests that analytical abilities may be an essential component for successful creative work in the scientific fields. Motivation subcomponents varied within and across majors. For example, although science majors scored higher on extrinsic motivation, education majors tended to be the most highly motivated group in the areas of performance goals, effort, and intrinsic motivation. Differences were also found among the groups on the subcomponents of verbal creative-thinking ability and adolescent activities. The various differences found in this study indicate that differentiated supports may be beneficial for talent development of individuals interested in different domains. It is important to further explore how talented students, with different domains of interest, can be best supported in the development of their talent.


Ability; Arts; Cognition; Creative ability; Gifted; Gifted persons; Giftedness; Graduate students; Intellect; Sciences; Teachers


Educational Psychology | Gifted Education | Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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