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Gender Identity and the Overexcitability Profiles of Gifted College Students

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Traditional sex-based categories are giving way to more expanded notions of gender among young men and women today. Along with feminine and masculine personalities, some individuals combine both for a more androgynous persona, whereas others exhibit few distinctly feminine or masculine characteristics. In a study of 118 gifted college students, the Bem Sex-Role Inventory was used to assess gender identity; personality characteristics were measured with the Overexcitability Questionnaire–Two. Results indicate a stronger relationship between gender identity (masculinity or femininity) and overexcitability (OE) than between sex (female or male) and OE. Males and females were distributed in the gender categories as follows: men tended to be masculine or undifferentiated, whereas women were feminine or androgynous. Androgynous males and females had higher OE scores. Implications for Dabrowski's theory and gifted education are discussed.
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Roeper Review, 31:161–169, 2009
Copyright © The Roeper Institute
ISSN: 0278-3193 print / 1940-865X online
DOI: 10.1080/02783190902993920
UROR
Gender Identity and the Overexcitability Profiles
of Gifted College Students
GENDER IDENTITY AND THE OVEREXCITABILITY P ROFILES
Nancy B. Miller, R. Frank Falk, and Yinmei Huang
Traditional sex-based categories are giving way to more expanded notions of gender among
young men and women today. Along with feminine and masculine personalities, some indi-
viduals combine both for a more androgynous persona, whereas others exhibit few distinctly
feminine or masculine characteristics. In a study of 118 gifted college students, the Bem Sex-
Role Inventory was used to assess gender identity; personality characteristics were measured
with the Overexcitability Questionnaire–Two. Results indicate a stronger relationship
between gender identity (masculinity or femininity) and overexcitability (OE) than between
sex (female or male) and OE. Males and females were distributed in the gender categories as
follows: men tended to be masculine or undifferentiated, whereas women were feminine or
androgynous. Androgynous males and females had higher OE scores. Implications for
Dabrowski’s theory and gifted education are discussed.
Keywords: androgyny, Dabrowski’s theory, femininity, gender identity, gifted education,
masculinity, overexcitability, personality development
Nearly a century ago educator, researcher, and feminist Leta
Hollingworth identified some of the institutional barriers to
women’s achievement. In an article in the American Jour-
nal of Sociology, Hollingworth (1916) showed how social
institutions conspire to control and limit a woman’s role in
society to that of motherhood. The major source of gender
difference, she asserted, can be found in the opportunity
structure in society rather than in sex category. In a similar
vein, Barbara Risman (1998) more recently argued that men
and women act differently because of the positions they
occupy in society—in their families, their work, and the insti-
tutional settings of their lives. She used social interactional
and institutional factors, along with individual personality
factors, to explain the parenting behavior of men and women.
Research on gender relations in the workplace reveals
that when women have the same opportunities as men—for
example, interactions with similar others, available mentors,
and equal access to promotions—they behave similarly
(Kanter, 1977). In an attempt to observe the effects of
respondent’s sex and social role on behavior in the family
setting, Risman asked the question: Can men mother (i.e.,
care for their children)? The answer, based on her research,
was clearly and unequivocally, yes, men can nurture their
children. Respondents’ sex and parenting roles affected their
responsibilities for housework and parent–child intimacy and
affection. Single fathers were similar in most ways to single
mothers on these ostensible “mothering” measures, and both
differed from married fathers and mothers.
GENDER AND PERSONALITY
The relationship between gender identity and personality
traits has been the topic of interest and investigation for
years. Brim (1960) analyzed the characteristics parents
encourage in their 5- to 6-year-olds and reported that curios-
ity, ambition, and competitiveness were promoted in boys,
whereas kindness, friendliness, and obedience were fostered
in girls. Later, these two distinct sets of personality charac-
teristics were labeled instrumental and expressive and attrib-
uted to men and women, respectively (Bem, 1974; Spence &
Helmreich, 1978). Early psychological research assumed
masculinity and femininity to be core to personality, and gen-
der identity disorder was assigned to those who deviated from
societal norms for sex-typed behavior (Bem, 1993).
In the popular press, John Gray (1992) proclaimed that
men and women are from two different planets where they
hold different values and speak different languages. His
Received 8 June 2007; accepted 11 April 2008.
Address correspondence to Nancy B. Miller, Gifted Development
Center, 1452 Marion St., Denver, CO 80218. E-mail: nmiller@uakron.edu
162 N. B. MILLER ET AL.
depiction of inherent personality differences reflects the
biological, or sociobiological, view that maleness and
femaleness are “natural” sex differences. This position
ignores the importance of social forces that shape individu-
als’ attitudes and behavior. Beyond understanding that differ-
ential socialization creates gendered personalities, the
recognition that our behavior is influenced by social roles,
interactional scripts, and contextual factors extends our views
of gender and personality in today’s society (Risman, 1998).
It is common in the academic world to distinguish the
concepts of sex and gender as follows: sex is used to repre-
sent the biologically based designation of male and female
and gender indicates the performance of activities to
confirm one’s sex category (West & Zimmerman, 1987).
Some in the social sciences argue that gender is structural, a
feature of society designed to create inequality and the
subordination of women (Lorber, 1994). Others see gender
as both personal and cultural, where external gender
constraints affect individual selves (Risman, 1998). Social
psychologists Stets and Burke have said that “gender iden-
tity involves all the meanings that are applied to oneself on
the basis of one’s gender identification” (2000, p. 998) and
that self-identity motivates gender-related behavior.
MASCULINITY AND FEMININITY
Male and female, masculine and feminine, generally have
been seen as representing opposing tendencies (Bem, 1993;
Lips, 2005) and were first measured as opposite ends of a
continuum (Lips; Terman & Miles, 1936). However, when
sex and gender are distinguished, it becomes clear that people
do not fit neatly into masculine and feminine categories. Theo-
rists such as Bem (1974, 1981, 1993) challenged the conceptu-
alization of masculinity and femininity as inherent aspects of
personality and argued that they are culturally defined pre-
scriptions for how men and women should act. This view is
supported in research based on the inventory she developed
called the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI; Bem, 1981).
The BSRI is composed of two independent scales: one
indicating highly masculine-identified individuals and one
indicating highly feminine-identified individuals. A person
may score high on one or the other, high on both, or low on
both. Scores on the two scales, masculinity and femininity,
are used to create four distinct gender categories: masculine,
feminine, androgynous, and undifferentiated. Androgyny is
the concept Bem used to indicate a merging of masculine
and feminine characteristics within an individual. When
men or women score high on both instrumental and expres-
sive dimensions, they are androgynous, and when low on
both, they are undifferentiated.
Those classified in either masculine or feminine catego-
ries are highly attuned to sex-appropriate, culturally deter-
mined behaviors and use these definitions to describe
themselves (Bem, 1981). Those classified as androgynous
represent an integration of masculinity and femininity
(Bem, 1974). Androgyny is considered a healthy personal-
ity trait, beneficial for psychological development and high
levels of psychological functioning (Bem; Pipher, 1994;
Waterman & Whitbourne, 1982). Androgynous individuals
are flexible in social situations because they use situational
appropriateness rather than sex-based cultural expectations
as the basis of their behavior.
The group defined as undifferentiated are those who
have self-concepts that do not recognize or accept cultural
definitions of sex-appropriate behavior. They have limited
self-identification with either masculine or feminine charac-
teristics (Waterman & Whitbourne, 1982) and are viewed as
less adaptable, having fewer options for gender expression
(Bem, 1981; Holt & Ellis, 1998). These individuals may see
themselves as existing outside the boundaries of culturally
defined sex-appropriate behaviors, or they may identify
with the gender-neutral or social desirability BSRI items.
In a study investigating the sex-role orientation of gifted
adolescents, more females than males were classified as
androgynous or feminine, whereas more males than females
were in the undifferentiated or masculine categories (Wells,
Peltier, & Glickauf-Hughes, 1982). A later study of gifted
and talented high-school seniors found that scores on the
BSRI indicated a large number of male as well as female
students endorsed androgynous sex-role characteristics
(Howard-Hamilton & Franks, 1995). Using interviews to
investigate the sex-role identity of 13 gifted adolescent boys
in high school and college, Wilcove (1998) found evidence
of psychological androgyny in nearly all subjects.
In her review of the literature on gifted females, Silverman
(1986) found compelling evidence that sex-role stereotyping
limits the aptitude of gifted girls. As a result, their creativity,
high grades, and achievement orientation are lost in exchange
for social acceptance. This is most obvious during adolescence,
although the pattern persists into adulthood. In comparison to
most other girls, “Gifted girls have more masculine interests . .
. and they are often tormented by both boys and girls if they
choose to pursue those interests” (p. 69). The less the role dif-
ferentiation between the sexes, the more likely is the blending
of masculine and feminine traits that could benefit both.
THE CONCEPT OF OVEREXCITABILITY
Our interest in personality focuses on the concept of over-
excitability (OE) from Dabrowski’s theory of positive
disintegration. In the theory, three factors play a role in
higher-level psychological functioning—developmental
potential, the social environment, and an autonomous dyna-
mism known as third factor, which represents “choice and
decision in setting and following internal standards”
(Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977, p. 44). Overexcitability,
“a property of the central nervous system,” is the primary com-
ponent of developmental potential (Mendaglio, 2008, p. 24).
GENDER IDENTITY AND THE OVEREXCITABILITY PROFILES 163
Overexcitability indicates increased frequency, intensity,
and duration of response in one or more of the following
areas: emotional, intellectual, imaginational, sensual, and
psychomotor (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski,
2006). Briefly, indicants are as follows:
1. A person with emotional OE has deep-felt and complex
emotions and can identify with the feelings of others.
2. A person with intellectual OE has an inquiring
mind and is introspective, analytical, and not easily
distracted.
3. A person with imaginational OE is creative and has
elaborate daydreams and fantasies.
4. A person with sensual OE has heightened sensory
awareness and reactions.
5. A person with psychomotor OE has a surplus of
energy, is highly active and enthusiastic, and may be
impulsive and competitive.
For more forms and expressions of OE, see table 1 in
Piechowski (2006) or table 1.1 in Silverman (1993).
When all forms of OE are active, the potential for
individual development is greatest. However, emotional,
intellectual, and imaginational OEs are essential to higher-
level development. Emotional OE is an especially strong
force for empowering the development process. On the
other hand, when sensual and psychomotor OEs are present
alone, development is somewhat limited (Dabrowski, 1972;
Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977).
MALE–FEMALE DIFFERENCES
IN OVEREXCITABILITY
Studies exploring sex differences in OE have found higher
emotional scores for females, in most cases, and higher
intellectual and psychomotor scores for males. In a study of
42 graduate students, Lysy and Piechowski (1983) reported
that males had higher psychomotor OE scores than females.
Research combining graduate students and gifted adults
(n = 83) found that females scored higher in emotional OE,
whereas males were higher in intellectual OE (Miller,
Silverman, & Falk, 1994). Ackerman’s study (1997a)
analyzing the combined data from 13 prior investigations
found that females had higher emotional and imaginational
OE scores than males.
Investigating the gender differences of 562 college
students, Bouchet and Falk (2001) reported gender differ-
ences in all areas of OE: males scored higher on intellectual,
psychomotor, and imaginational OE, whereas females were
higher on emotional and sensual OE. In a study of OEs in
gifted children (ages 5–15) and their parents (n = 143), Tieso
(2007) found that intellectual and emotional OE discriminated
among males and females. She reported that adult males had
the highest mean intellectual OE scores, whereas male stu-
dents had higher scores than female students. Similarly, adult
females had the highest emotional OE scores. Two other
studies reported no male–female differences in OE (Falk,
Manzanero, & Miller, 1997; Piechowski & Miller, 1995).
Differences in OE have been found between gifted and
nongifted groups as well. Research comparing a sample of 41
gifted adults to 42 graduate students found that the gifted
group scored higher overall on OE (Miller et al., 1994).
Ackerman (1997b) found that psychomotor, intellectual, and
emotional OEs differentiated between gifted and nongifted
high-school students, suggesting that OE may be used to iden-
tify giftedness in the school setting. Using teacher report of OE,
Bouchard (2004) also found that intellectual and psychomotor
scores discriminated between 96 gifted and 75 nonidentified
students; however, in her study, low rather than high psycho-
motor scores identified gifted elementary-school students.
A literature search revealed an absence of studies exam-
ining the relationship between the Bem gender categories
(masculine, feminine, androgynous, and undifferentiated)
and OE. One can hypothesize that persons categorized as
androgynous will have higher OE scores and, therefore,
possess greater potential for emotional development. This is
based on the belief that a balance of feminine and masculine
qualities affords a psychological advantage, including bene-
fits for mental health and personality development (Bem,
1974; Pipher, 1994; Waterman & Whitbourne, 1982).
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
To examine the relationship between sex, gender, and
overexcitability, the current study addresses the following
questions:
1. Is the relationship between gender (masculinity and
femininity) and OE (emotional, intellectual, imagina-
tional, sensual, and psychomotor) stronger than the
relationship between sex (male and female) and OE?
2. How are gifted college students distributed in the gen-
der categories—feminine, masculine, androgynous,
and undifferentiated?
3. Do the OE profiles differ for male and female students?
4. Do the OE profiles differ in the gender categories?
TABLE 1
Correlations Between OE and Sex, Masculinity, and Femininity
Overexcitability Sex Masculinity Femininity
Psychomotor 0.04 0.38** 0.29**
Sensual 0.22* 0.02 0.49**
Imaginational 0.09 0.04 0.34**
Intellectual 0.22** 0.49** 0.09
Emotional 0.48** 0.05 0.74**
Note. *p < . 05. **p < .01.
164 N. B. MILLER ET AL.
METHOD
Subjects
From a study of 562 students at a large, mid-Western
research university, a sample of 118 (59 males and 59
females) students was selected from the 141 who reported
having been in a gifted program at some time in their educa-
tional career. At this institution, 25% of entering freshman
in 2007 scored 24 or higher on the ACT college entrance
exam.
Fifty-nine men had no missing values on research instru-
ments; 59 women were randomly sampled from 80 with no
missing values on instruments used. Equal numbers of
males and females are required for gender category assign-
ment (Bem, 1981).
Students in Introduction to Sociology courses signed a
human subjects’ consent form and voluntarily completed a
questionnaire that included the shortened version of the Bem
Sex-Role Inventory, the Overexcitability Questionnaire–Two
(OEQ–II), and several demographic items. The age of
respondents ranged from 17 to 38 (median = 19). Approxi-
mately 75% (75.2) self-identified as White; 17.1% as Afri-
can American; and 7.8% as Asian American, Hispanic, or
other races. More than half (54.2%) were freshman; 91.5%
were full-time students.
Measures
The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI; Bem, 1981) consists of
personality characteristics rated by respondents on a 7-point
scale from 1 (Never or almost never true) to 7 (Always or
almost always true). The short form of the inventory has
30 items: 10 are stereotypically masculine (e.g., indepen-
dent, forceful), 10 are stereotypically feminine (e.g., affec-
tionate, gentle), and 10 are gender-neutral items used as
fillers (e.g., reliable, truthful). Scores are summed on the
gender-stereotyped items to obtain a masculinity and femi-
ninity score for each respondent. Filler items are not used in
scoring. Test–retest reliabilities for the masculinity and femi-
ninity scores are .91 and .85, respectively. Research studies
have established that the BSRI discriminates between those
persons “who restrict their behavior in accordance with sex
stereotypes and those who do not” (Bem, 1981, p. 29).
For analysis, subjects were assigned to one of four distinct
gender categories: masculine, feminine, androgynous, or
undifferentiated. Categories are formed by comparison of
respondent’s femininity and masculinity score with the sam-
ple median for these scales. For research purposes, the use of
sample specific medians is recommended (Bem, 1981).
Respondents whose masculinity scores are higher than
the median and whose femininity scores are lower than the
median are classified as masculine. Likewise, those whose
femininity scores are higher than the median and whose
masculinity scores are lower than the median are classified
as feminine. Those with both masculinity and femininity
scores above the medians of those categories are designated
androgynous; those with masculinity and femininity scores
below the medians are designated as undifferentiated.
The OEQ-II is a 50-item, self-rating questionnaire to
measure OE (Bouchet & Falk, 2001; Falk, Lind, Miller,
Piechowski, & Silverman, 1999). Ten items that assess each
of the five OEs (emotional, intellectual, imaginational, sen-
sual, and psychomotor) are randomly distributed throughout
the instrument. Respondents are asked to rate items on a
scale of 1 (Not at all like me) to 5 (Very much like me).
Examples of items include “I worry a lot,” “Theories get my
mind going,” and “I’m a competitive person.” Scores are
summed and averaged for each OE. Internal reliability for
OEs range from Cronbach’s alpha = .85 for imaginational
OE to .98 for sensual and intellectual OE. Content validity
was established by principal components factor analysis
with varimax rotation showing simple structure and item
loadings all above .50 (Falk et al., 1999).
Subjects identified themselves as male or female on the
questionnaire. Responses were coded 1 “Male” and 2
“Female.”
RESULTS
Sex, Gender, and OE
To determine whether the relationship between gender
and OE is stronger than the relationship between sex and
OE, Pearson’s product moment correlations between gen-
der (masculinity and femininity scores) and OE were
compared to correlations between sex and OE. Although
the variable sex is dichotomous (having only two values;
i.e., 1 male and 2 female), it is perfectly acceptable to
treat it as interval-level data in quantitative analysis
(Schutt, 2006). Results are presented separately for each
OE (see Table 1).
Psychomotor
Correlations for masculinity and psychomotor OE (r = .38,
p < .01) and for femininity and psychomotor OE (r = .29,
p < .01) were both significant. There was no correlation
between sex and psychomotor OE (r = .04,
p > .05).
Sensual
The correlation between femininity and sensual OE
was .49 (p < .01) and between sex and sensual OE was
.22 (p < .05), showing that those whose gender identity is
feminine and whose sex is female have higher sensual
OE. Although both are significant, the correlation
between femininity and sensual OE is substantially stron-
ger. There was no significant correlation for masculinity
and sensual OE (r = .02, p > .05).
GENDER IDENTITY AND THE OVEREXCITABILITY PROFILES 165
Imaginational
There was a significant correlation between femininity
and imaginational OE (r = .34, p < .01), indicating that
those with feminine traits scored higher on imaginational
OE. There was no significant correlation for masculinity
and imaginational OE (r = .04, p > .05) or for sex and imag-
inational OE (r =.09, p > .05).
Intellectual
The correlation for masculinity and intellectual OE
(r = .49, p < .01) was higher than the correlation for sex
and intellectual OE (r = .22, p < .01), though both were
significant. Femininity was not correlated with intellec-
tual OE (r = .09, p > .05).
Emotional
The correlation for femininity and emotional OE was .74
(p < .01) and the correlation for sex and emotional OE was .48
(p < .01). Although both were significant, the correlation for
femininity and emotional OE was substantially higher. Mascu-
linity was not correlated with emotional OE (r = .05, p > .05).
Distribution of Students in Gender Categories
Frequencies were examined to determine how students were
distributed in the four gender categories. The distribution
was as follows: 34 (28.8%) were classified as androgynous,
31 (26.3%) were undifferentiated, 28 (23.7%) were in the
masculine category (see Figure 1), and 25 (21.2%) were in
the feminine category.
Cross-tabulation of respondent’s sex by gender category
revealed a significant association (chi-square = 38.67, p <
.01). Females tended to be androgynous or feminine (78%),
whereas males tended to be masculine or undifferentiated
(78%; see Table 2).
Analysis of Group Differences
To analyze group differences in overexcitabilities, multi-
variate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed for
FIGURE 1 Distribution of students in gender categories.
28 (23.7%) 34 (28.8%)
Masculine Androgynous
Undifferentiated Feminine
31 (26.3%) 25 (21.2%)
Masculinity
(High)
(Low)
Femininity (High)(Low)
TABLE 2
Crosstabulation of Sex by Gender Category
Sex
TotalMale Female
Gender
Masculine
Count 22 6 28
% within Sex 37.3% 10.2% 23.7%
Feminine
Count 3 22 25
% within Sex 5.1% 37.3% 21.2%
Androgynous
Count 102434
% within Sex 16.9% 40.7% 28.8%
Undifferentiated
Count 24 7 31
% within Sex 40.7% 11.9% 26.3%
Total
Count 59 59 118
% within Sex 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
166 N. B. MILLER ET AL.
OE and sex (male or female) and OE and gender (masculine,
feminine, androgynous, or undifferentiated). This is a rec-
ommended procedure when multiple dependent variables
might be correlated. First, an overall test is conducted to
determine the level of significance, controlling for the num-
ber of dependent variables. Next, individual OE differences
for sex or gender category are examined.
OE Profiles for Sex Categories
A MANOVA to determine whether OE profiles differed
by sex found an overall difference between males and
females (Λ = .649, F = 12.1, df = 5, 112, p < .01). Stepdown
F tests indicated which OE means were significantly differ-
ent for the group variable sex. Males scored higher on intel-
lectual OE (3.85 vs. 3.52), whereas females scored higher
on emotional (4.21 vs. 3.42) and sensual OE (3.58 vs. 3.18).
OE Profiles for Gender Categories
A MANOVA for OE means by gender showed significant
differences in OE for gender category (Λ = .39, F = 8.09,
df = 15, 304, p < .01). Stepdown F tests revealed the follow-
ing patterns (see Figure 2): For psychomotor OE, androgy-
nous scores (M = 4.01) were higher than those of the other
categories—masculine (M = 3.58), feminine (M = 3.33),
and undifferentiated (M = 2.98). The masculine score was
also higher than the undifferentiated. For sensual OE,
androgynous (M = 3.73) and feminine (M = 3.68) scores
were higher than those for masculine (M = 2.82) but not sig-
nificantly different from undifferentiated (M = 3.26). Like-
wise, the undifferentiated mean was not statistically
different from the masculine mean.
The imaginational OE pattern indicated no significant
difference between gender category means—androgynous
(M = 3.31), masculine (M = 2.80), feminine (M = 3.15), and
undifferentiated (M = 2.77). The intellectual OE pattern
showed the following: androgynous (M = 3.92) and mascu-
line (M = 3.85) scores were higher than the undifferentiated
category (M = 3.48). Feminine category (M = 3.43) was
lower than the androgynous score but not significantly dif-
ferent from the masculine or undifferentiated scores.
Finally, the emotional OE profile indicated that feminine
(M = 4.37) and androgynous (M = 4.23) scores were signifi-
cantly higher than those for masculine (M = 3.36) and undif-
ferentiated (M = 3.32).
DISCUSSION
Findings indicate that correlations between gender (mascu-
linity or femininity) and OE are stronger than correlations
between sex and OE. There are significant, but moderate,
correlations between either masculinity or femininity and
psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, and intellectual
OEs—a strong correlation exists between femininity and
emotional OE. Both masculinity and femininity are corre-
lated with psychomotor OE. Although significant relation-
ships exist between sex and intellectual OE (males scored
higher), emotional OE (females scored higher), and sensual
OE (females scored higher), the absolute value is consider-
ably lower than for correlations of the gender scales with
OE. One’s gender identity clearly is a better indicator of
personality, as assessed by OE, than one’s classification as
male or female.
Reflecting traditional gender roles, those with self-iden-
tified feminine personality characteristics were more emo-
tional and sensual; those with masculine characteristics
were more intellectual. This finding may reflect areas in
FIGURE 2 Overexcitability profile for gender categories.
Psychomotor Sensual Imaginational Intellectual Emotional
Overexcitability
0.00
1.00
2.00
3.00
4.00
5.00
Mean
Masculine
Feminine
Androgynous
Undifferentiated
GENDER IDENTITY AND THE OVEREXCITABILITY PROFILES 167
which personality styles are more delineated and more
closely mirror social norms for men and women.
The distribution of students in the gender categories indi-
cates that females are more likely to be androgynous or
feminine, whereas males are more likely to be masculine or
undifferentiated. This is consistent with the earlier findings
of Wells et al. (1982) with gifted adolescents. One study of
gifted high-school students concluded that females were
more contemporary in their attitudes toward sex roles and
career plans than males (Dunnell & Bakken, 1991). We can
speculate that the pursuit of success in the workplace has
resulted in many women adding masculine qualities to their
identity. This merging of feminine and masculine traits may
contribute to the number of women who are androgynous. On
the other hand, over 20% of the females in our study of gifted
college students had a very traditional feminine identity.
Slightly more males identified themselves by stereotypically
masculine traits (24%). When this was not the case, men
tended to identify with neither masculine nor feminine norms.
Limitations to the study include the cross-sectional
nature of the data, the reliance on information from under-
graduate students, and the conception and measurement of
gender differences. Cross-sectional data do not allow a
statement of directionality with regard to findings. There-
fore, even though we have assumed that OE profiles reflect
gender-role identity, the reverse cannot be ruled out. Fur-
ther, findings reflect the views of college students and may
not generalize to younger students or other populations.
Finally, though the Bem Sex-Role Inventory is a widely
used instrument to assess perceptions of gender roles, it is
composed of traditionally rated items and thus may not
reflect contemporary views of gender (Konrad & Harris,
2002). Median values for femininity and masculinity will
fluctuate across samples; as a result, the placement of indi-
viduals into gender categories is sample specific.
Implications for Dabrowski’s Theory
Comparing OE profiles for the gender categories, we find
that androgynous college students have higher OE overall.
In absolute terms, they have the highest mean value in psy-
chomotor, sensual, imaginational, and intellectual OE and
the second highest mean in emotional OE. Following the
theoretical position that OE is a component of developmen-
tal potential, we tentatively infer that androgynous persons
have strong potential for advanced personality develop-
ment. Research relating OE and levels of emotional devel-
opment has shown that OE, especially emotional,
intellectual, and imaginational, is positively related to levels
of personality development (Lysy & Piechowski, 1983;
Miller et al., 1994). Future research that examines the rela-
tionship between androgyny and OE in other groups is
needed to confirm this supposition. The relationship
between androgyny and level of emotional development
should be investigated as well.
Another pattern discovered in the OE profiles is that
androgynous- and feminine-classified students scored
higher on sensual and emotional OE, whereas those classi-
fied as undifferentiated and masculine were higher on intel-
lectual and psychomotor OE. In these areas, personality
characteristics would appear to reflect traditional sex roles.
OE profiles showed no differences between men and
women on imaginational OE in this study.
Implications for Gifted Education
Some psychologists have criticized the concept of
androgyny because it is based on traditional sex-based
characteristics that vary by age, race, economic status,
and historical period (Gill, Stockard, Johnson, & Will-
iams, 1987; Konrad & Harris, 2002; Lips, 2005). In line
with Hollingworth’s (1916) and Risman’s (1998) posi-
tions, any imputed gender differences may also “reflect
women’s lack of opportunity in a male-dominated soci-
ety” (Risman, p. 20). Although options for women have
increased in recent years and many women have filled
jobs previously held exclusively by men, their position in
society is still subordinate to men’s in many areas, espe-
cially those with important decision-making responsibilities
(Ridgeway, 2001).
Results of gender research have shown that behavior is
predicted by gender-role socialization to a lesser extent and
to a greater extent by structural contingencies, such as social
role demands. Risman’s (1998) findings support the posi-
tion that structural constraints impact individuals’ selves
and at the same time confirm the continuing influence of
gender-role socialization on behavior. When social roles are
shared equally, gender roles may be less sex defined, and
personality traits may be valued more for their appropriate-
ness in the situation than for their affiliation with maleness.
It follows that if the role demands of teachers and parents
are less sex biased, boys and girls will be encouraged to
respond without reliance on traditional gender norms but
rather on the basis of their own interests, abilities, and
unique personality.
Although androgyny may not be the ideal it was once
thought to be, flexibility of gender specifications will create
more open, adaptable, and accommodating personalities
appropriate for an ever-changing and global society. The
efforts of teachers to minimize gender stereotypes, accord-
ing to Lips (2005, p. 52), “may ultimately help to reduce the
power imbalance between women and men and foster an era
of greater equality.”
The analysis presented here allows us to see the value of
so-called feminine attributes in their association with sen-
sual and emotional OE and the value of traditionally defined
masculine attributes that are associated with higher intellec-
tual and psychomotor OE. This is true for both women and
men. Although this study infers that females have incorpo-
rated traditional male attributes to a greater extent than
168 N. B. MILLER ET AL.
males have identified with feminine attributes, the goal for
gifted educators should be to support both male and female
traits within each student.
Teachers can help children by providing a nonstereo-
typed environment and incorporating models of men and
women in a variety of roles and positions in society. This
could include, for example, fathers who are nurturing, affec-
tionate, and involved in the lives of their children and moth-
ers who are self-sufficient and assertive in their
relationships with others. Children should be allowed to
take the lead in acquiring their own gender identity, and
those in the field of gifted education particularly should be
sensitive to the individualized notion of development that
includes one’s gender identity.
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GENDER IDENTITY AND THE OVEREXCITABILITY PROFILES 169
AUTHOR BIOS
Nancy B. Miller, PhD, is a social psychologist at the Gifted Development Center, and editor for Advanced Develop-
ment journal. Her research interests are in personality development, gender and giftedness, and women’s social sup-
port and adjustment to stressful life events. E-mail:nmiller@uakron.edu
R. Frank Falk, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of Akron, and Director of Research
at the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development. His research focuses on social-emotional development and
research methods/statistics. His most recent publications involve the measurement of overexcitabilities in Dab-
rowski’s theory. E-mail:rfalk@uakron.edu
Yinmei Huang, MA, is a graduate student in sociology at the University of Akron. She holds an MA in law from
Nanjing University, China, and a MA in Statistics from the University of Akron. She is pursuing interests in research
methodology, sociology of the family, and gender. E-mail:yh11@uakron.edu
... Sensual overexcitability involves intensified sensual experiences as a way to relieve tensions and inner conflicts (Mendaglio & Tillier, 2006;Mofield & Peters, 2015). Intellectual overexcitability is characterized by a great need for knowledge and problem solving (Miller, Falk, & Huang, 2009;Rinn & Reynolds, 2012). It is highlighted, however, that this pattern of overexcitability should not be compared with intelligence, as it is not about problem-solving ability, but about the love for this process (Ackerman, 2009). ...
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The kinds of overexcitability and their relation to emotional creativity among the seventh and tenth grades students Abstract: The study aimed at identifying the relationship between the kinds of overexcitability and emotional creativity among the upper elementary stage students in Amman, and the differences between them considering the gender and grade. The sample consisted of (264) students in 7th and 10th grades in Amman. Two scales have been applied in this study: (Falk & et al. scale for overexcitabilities, and Averill scale for emotional creativity). The results indicated that the level of overexcitabilities were medium, while the level of the total emotional creativity was high. and the results indicated the existence of significant positive relationships between the kinds of overexcitabilities (Intellectual, sensory, imagination, and Emotional) with emotional creativity, so the multiple regression analysis indicated that these kinds were predict the emotional creativity with a variance ratio of (24%). The results showed that there were significant differences in some of the overexcitabilities kinds (Intellectual, imagination, and emotional) due to the gender for female, but in psychomotor overexcitability for male, whereas there were no significant differences in the overexcitabilities due to grade or it's interaction with gender, except for psychomotor overexcitability. The study also found significant differences in the emotional creativity due to the gender for females, and to grade for 10th grade. Finally, the study recommended training of students in emotional creativity before the onset of adolescence.
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Objectives Highly intellectually gifted adults seem to be at a higher risk for existential crisis. However, not much is known about what contributes to their life meaning and/or well-being. This study examined if self-compassion may be a resource leading to a happy and/or meaningful life, or vice versa. Methods Cross-lagged associations between meaningfulness, subjective well-being, and self-compassion were examined. Additionally, we tested for differences concerning these constructs between the gifted and general population. One hundred highly intellectually gifted adults (55% female; mean age 43 ± 9 years) participated in a two-wave (4 years) online study with a cross-lagged design. Results Gifted adults experienced significantly lower levels of meaningfulness (T1: d = 0.55, 95% CI [− 0.76/− 0.33]; T2: d = 0.39, 95% CI [− 0.60/− 0.18]), subjective well-being (T1: d = 1.11, 95% CI [− 1.32/− 0.90]; T2: d = 0.82, 95% CI [− 1.03/− 0.61]), and self-compassion (T1: d = 1.21, 95% CI [0.99/1.42]; T2: d = 0.82, 95% CI [0.61/1.02]) compared to the general population. Cross-sectional analyses showed positive moderate to strong associations between the constructs. Cross-lagged analysis revealed that a sense of meaningfulness was a significant predictor of subjective well-being over time (β = 0.36, p < .05), after controlling for autoregressive effects. No cross-lagged effects between self-compassion and meaningfulness or self-compassion and subjective well-being were established. Conclusions Highly intellectually gifted adults might find it taxing to experience life meaning, subjective well-being, and self-compassion. Results suggested the importance of strengthening gifted adults’ life meaning which in further consequence may support highly gifted individuals in living a happier life.
... Most show that women achieve higher scores than men in emotional and sensual OE, and lower in psychomotor and intellectual OE (Botella et al., 2015;Bouchet, Falk, 2001;Van den Broeck et al., 2013;Limont et al., 2014;Moon, Montgomery, 2005). It is worth adding that Miller, Falk and Huang (2009) found that OE was more closely connected with gender than with sex; the results of their research showed that emotional and sensual OE were higher, while intellectual and psychomotor OE were lower, in feminine or androgynous individuals compared to masculine or neutral ones. ...
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