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Beyond analysis by gender: Overexcitability dimensions of sexually diverse populations and implications for gifted education

Dissertation
Author: Alena R. Treat
Abstract:
Researchers have found all five overexcitabilities to be stronger among gifted individuals but gifted gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) students frequently find themselves in a dilemma in which they must choose between academic success and social acceptance. The emotional impact of that dilemma may be heightened significantly for them. Schools have been unresponsive to the needs of gifted GLB students and lack of understanding of these sexually diverse gifted students has only contributed to their challenges. Therefore, I explored this general question: What, if any, differences among the dimensions of overexcitability are related to sexual orientation, giftedness, and/or gender? Requests for participants containing a URL for an online survey were distributed through education, gifted, diversity, and GLBT listservs at eleven geographically-dispersed colleges/universities and via MENSA e-mail lists/newsletters. Quantitative research methods were utilized to study variations in which 965 heterosexual, gay, and bisexual individuals possessed overexcitability characteristics as measured by the Overexcitability Questionnaire II. Gender role was measured with the Bem Sex Role Inventory. The Gifted, Gender, and Sexual Orientation Main Effects were significant, but more importantly, these results were more fully explained by the significant Gender by Sexual Orientation Interaction. Gender Role did not affect the results. Heterosexual males had significantly higher mean Intellectual scores than heterosexual females; heterosexual females had significantly higher mean Emotional scores than heterosexual males; bisexual females scored significantly higher than heterosexual females in Sensual, Imaginational, and Intellectual.; gay males scored significantly higher than heterosexual males in Emotional; and there were no significant differences in Psychomotor for any subpopulation. Other statistically significant results as well as unexpected results were described. In addition, included were implications for (1) Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration and (2) gifted education.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DOCTORAL ACCEPTANCE PAGE ............................................................................................ ii

COPYRIGHT PAGE ..................................................................................................................... iii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ............................................................................................................. iv

ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................................... vi

CHAPTER 1- STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM ...................................................................... 1

Context of the Study ........................................................................................................... 6

Theory of Positive Disintegration ........................................................................... 6

Overexcitability ..................................................................................................... 10

Need for More Understanding of Gifted Sexually Diverse Populations .......................... 16

Definitions......................................................................................................................... 20

CHAPTER 2- LITERATURE REVIEW ...................................................................................... 21

Overexcitability................................................................................................................. 21

Previous Overexcitability Research ...................................................................... 21

Overexcitability, Androgyny, and the Connection to Giftedness .......................... 26

Cognitive Flexibility in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Role ........... 29

Overexcitability in Gifted Sexually Diverse Populations ..................................... 32

Synopsis ............................................................................................................................ 33

CHAPTER 3 – RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY ............................................... 35

Hypotheses ........................................................................................................................ 35

Measures ........................................................................................................................... 37

Demographics and Background Questions .......................................................... 37

Overexcitability Questionnaire II ......................................................................... 39

ix

Bem Sex Role Inventory ........................................................................................ 41

Internal Validity .................................................................................................... 42

External Validity ................................................................................................... 42

Data Collection ..................................................................................................... 42

Data Analysis ........................................................................................................ 43

CHAPTER 4 – RESULTS ............................................................................................................ 44

Sample Description ........................................................................................................... 44

Table 1: Participants by Giftedness, Sexual Orientation, and Gender ................. 46

Table 2: Demographics: Age. Race, Education Status, Level of Education, and Geographic Location ............................................................................................ 47

Hypothesis Testing............................................................................................................ 49

Giftedness Main Effect ..................................................................................................... 50

Table 3: Mean and Standard Deviation of the Dimensions of Overexcitability Scores for Gifted and General Education Groups ................................................ 51

Gender Main Effect........................................................................................................... 51

Table 4: Mean and Standard Deviation of the Dimensions of Overexcitability Scores for Total and Gender Groups .................................................................... 52

Sexual Orientation Main Effect ........................................................................................ 53

Table 5: Mean and Standard Deviation of Overexcitability Scores for Sexual Orientation ............................................................................................................ 55

Gender*Sexual Orientation Interaction ............................................................................ 55

Gender within Sexual Orientation ........................................................................ 56

Table 6: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores by Gender*Sexual Orientation ............................................................................................................ 58

x

Sexual Orientation within Gender ........................................................................ 59

Other Gender*Sexual Orientation Results ........................................................... 60

Age as a Covariate ............................................................................................................ 61

Figure 1: Histogram for Age Distribution ............................................................ 61

Gender Role as a Covariate............................................................................................... 62

CHAPTER 5 – DISCUSSION ...................................................................................................... 64

Hypothesis 1...................................................................................................................... 64

Hypothesis 2...................................................................................................................... 65

Hypothesis 3...................................................................................................................... 66

Hypothesis 4...................................................................................................................... 67

Figure 4: Sensual OE Scores Comparing Gender and Gender*Sexual Orientation ............................................................................................................................... 74

Figure 5: Emotional OE Scores Comparing Gender and Gender*Sexual Orientation ............................................................................................................ 74

Unexpected Results ........................................................................................................... 75

Limitations and Strengths ................................................................................................. 76

Implications....................................................................................................................... 78

Implications for Theory ......................................................................................... 78

Implications for Gifted Education ........................................................................ 80

REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................. 84

APPENDICES .............................................................................................................................. 94

Appendix A: Beginning of Survey and Demographic Questions ..................................... 95

Appendix B: Overexcitability Questionnaire II .............................................................. 101

Appendix C: Bem Sex Role Inventory ........................................................................... 104

Appendix D: Requests for Participants ........................................................................... 106

Appendix E: Recruitment Method Effectiveness ........................................................... 110

Table 7: Recruiting Sources for Participants by Type of Listserv/E-mail

xi

Distribution List .................................................................................................. 111

Table 8: Gifted and General Education Participants by Type of Listserv/E-mail Distribution List .................................................................................................. 112

Table 9: Gender Distribution of Participants by Type of Listserv/E-mail Distribution List .................................................................................................. 113

Table 10: Specific Sexual Orientation of Participants by Listserv/E-mail Distribution List .................................................................................................. 114

Table 11: Giftedness and Specific Sexual Orientation Distribution of Participants by Type of Listserv/E-mail Distribution List ....................................................... 115

Table 12: Giftedness and Specific Sexual Orientation Distribution of Participants by Type of Listserv/E-mail Distribution List ....................................................... 116

Appendix F: Results by Specific Subpopulations ........................................................... 121

Table 13: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores of Heterosexual Males to Other Populations ............................................................................................... 122

Table 14: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores of Heterosexual Females to Other Populations ........................................................................................... 122

Table 15: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores of Bisexual Males to Other Populations ............................................................................................... 124

Table 16: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores of Bisexual Females to Other Populations ............................................................................................... 125

Table 17: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores of Gay Males to Other Populations ......................................................................................................... 126

xii

Table 18: Comparison of Mean Overexcitability Scores of Gay Females to Other Populations ......................................................................................................... 127

CURRICULUM VITA ............................................................................................................... 128

1

CHAPTER 1- STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Gifted gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) students are often marginalized (W allace & Eriksson, 2006). For gifted GLB students, the burden of being twice different seems t o be related to depression and feelings of isolation (Peterson & Rischar, 2000; Le vy & Plucker, 2003) as well as suicidal ideation (Peterson & Rischar, 2000). Researc h in this area has advanced our understanding of how gifted GLB students have reconciled t his stress. Some students manage to reduce this stress by attempting to prove their worth by academic/athletic overachievement, perfectionism, or over-involvement in ex tracurricular activities; others react through more self-destructive behaviors such as dropping out of school, running away, abusing drugs, or attempting suicide. Long considered a non-issue in K-12 education, GLB youth have more recently become visible enough that even reluctant educators must now consider the implicati ons of having these students in their classrooms (Gevelinger & Zimmerman, 1997). Since

1986, the University of California’s TA Handbook (Abramson, 2006) has reminded its staff to prepare their teacher candidates to avoid heterosexist assumptions : Some years ago teachers and writers recognized that not all students and r eaders were white; some were black and some were Asian, some were Chicano. More recently they recognized that not everyone was male; there were women sit ting in classrooms and reading books. Now it needs to be recognized that not all students and readers are heterosexual; some are gay and some are lesbian (Devito, 1981, NP).

The National Association for Gifted Children has also joined the effort to avoid heterosexist assumptions and to add to the amount of knowledge regarding gifted GLB

students in particular. Discussion within the organization about the prevalence of emi nent

2

GLB individuals in various fields raised the question about the relationship between sexual diversity and giftedness (National Association for Gifted Childre n (2004). In a memo from its Executive Director, Peter Rosenstein (personal communication, 1998), t he National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) created the NAGC GLBT Ta sk Force whose purpose was “collecting and disseminating information on the special needs of t he nation’s gay, lesbian and bi youth” (p.1). In 2004, the task force morphed into the Work Group on Gifted Sexually Diverse Children and Youth whose goals include exploring the

link between gifted and GLBT youth, the impact of giftedness on GLBT identity, and t he impact sexual diversity has on gifted identity (NAGC, 2004). This dissertation is a result of the work of one of these Work Group members. I read a study published in Gifted Child Quarterly by Bouchet and Falk (2001) titled “The Relationship between Giftedness, Gender, and Overexcitability. ” They found differences between males and females, and stated that gender role acc ounted for those differences. However, it made me wonder if they had also asked the sexual orienta tion of their participants, would the results have been different? This curiosity is wha t propelled me to conduct a pilot study (Treat, 2006) to investigate further. The results of the pilot study were intriguing enough to justify a larger study and to also delve more into the Theory of Positive Disintegration and more specifically, to investigate the r elationship of giftedness, gender, sexual orientation, and overexcitabilities. Bouchard (2004) stated: Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration offers a promising framewo rk for examining the components and developmental dynamics of giftedness (Nelson, 1989; Piechowski & Cunningham, 1985; Silverman, 1993)… The theory has strong implications for teaching and counseling because it puts personality characteristics into the perspective of the person’s lifespan. Other perspe ctives of giftedness tend to dwell on childhood and the education of bright children.

3

Dabrowski, on the other hand, wanted to understand why some very bright and creative people attained higher levels of emotional development and self- actualization than others, and so he looked at the lifespans of gifted individuals. His theory explores the personal characteristics and events that are indic ators of the potential for higher levels of development. One important element of Dabrowski’s theory that is especially relevant to the identification and asse ssment of giftedness from this new perspective is the construct of overexcitabilities (p. 340).

Researchers have found all five overexcitabilities (Psychomotor, Intel lectual, Imaginational, Sensual and Emotional) to be stronger among gifted individuals (Ackerman, 1997; Gallagher, 1985; Miller, Silverman, & Falk, 1994; Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984, 2004; Piechowski & Cunningham, 1985; Silverman & Ellsworth, 1981). Overexcitabilities (OEs) are “modes of enhanced mental functioning; t hey can be thought of as channels of information flow. They can be widely open, narrow, or operating at a bare minimum” (Piechowski & Colangelo, 2004, p. 129) . The prefix over

in overexcitability actually implies an intensified and expanded way of expe riencing in the psychomotor, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional areas (Dabrowski, 1938; Piechowski & Colangelo, 2004). Piechowski and Colangelo (2004) described OEs as representing the kind of natural quality that nurtures, improves, empowers, and magnif ies talent, and without them, “a talent would be no more than a computational device” (p. 129). If OEs are a natural quality and magnifies talent, it would be interesti ng to, instead of just assessing the strength and prevalence of OEs according to gender a s Bouchet and Falk (2001) had done, also consider sexual orientation. Would GLB students also have similar levels of OEs as their same gender heterosexual peers? Sandoval (2002) insisted that schools have been unresponsive to the needs and issues of GLB students. The emotional impact of that isolation and unresponsiveness on

4

gifted GLB youth may be heightened significantly due to their overexcita bilities. It is likely that lack of understanding of these sexually diverse gifted students has only contributed to their challenges. Therefore, in this study I explored this general ques tion: What, if any, differences among the dimensions of overexcitability are relat ed to sexual orientation, giftedness, gender, and/or gender role?

Based on previous literature (See Chapters 2 and 3),

four hypotheses were proposed and tested:

1.

Gifted individuals will score higher on more dimensions of overexcitability than those in the General Education categories. 2.

Females will score higher than males in Emotional and Sensual and males will

score higher in Intellectual, Imaginational, and Psychomotor. 3.

Gender Role will be related to OE as a significant main effect with androgynous individuals having higher Intellectual, Imaginational, Sensual, and Psychomotor scores. 4.

Significant Gender by Sexual Orientation interactions are expected. Requests for participants containing a URL for an online survey were distri buted via education, gifted, diversity, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender ( GLBT) e- mail distribution lists at eleven geographically dispersed instituti ons of higher education ranging from small colleges to large universities. In addition, requests w ere distributed via MENSA e-mail distribution lists and newsletters. Quantitative resea rch methods were utilized to study variations in which heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual indivi duals possess the overexcitability characteristics as measured by the Over excitability Questionnaire II (Falk, Lind, Miller, Piechowski, & Silverman, 1999). Gender role was investigated by using the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1981). Implication s for gifted

5

education and for the Theory of Positive Disintegration are described.

6

Context of the Study Theory of Positive Disintegration

Although the theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD) was created in 1964 by Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, it was not introduced to gifted education until 1979 when Piechowski made a strong case for OEs being better indications of giftedness and creativity than most published checklists, IQ te sts, and other methods of identification used at that time (Silverman, 2008). In that same year, Og burn- Colangelo (1979; 1989) explained how this theory could be useful when counseling gifted clients. Since then, the field of gifted education in North America and Australia has slowly accepted TPD as essential to our grasp of the psychological charact eristics of giftedness, with overexcitabilities being the aspect of TPD having the most appeal (Silverman, 2008). In TPD, the term disintegration is the process of development whereby a person's current personality structure comes apart, i.e. disintegrates, and reinteg rates at a higher level. It is considered to be positive because this process contributes to personality development. Dabrowski (1967) believed that conflict and inner suffering were ne cessary for advanced development, which is movement from what is to what ought to be towards a hierarchy of values based on altruism. Dabrowski placed emotion in a central role in personality development and considered intelligence to be a secondary though nece ssary influence (Mendaglio, 2008; Izard & Ackerman, 2000; Mendaglio and Pyryt, 2004). Dabrowski focused on helping his patients understand, accept, and celebrate their negative emotions because he believed they were vital for advanced psychologica l development (Mendaglio, 2008; Dabrowski, 1967). According to TPD, each individual’s

7

personality, instead of being unchangeable, must be shaped or created to reflect his or her own unique character (Mendaglio, 2008). Mendaglio described this twofold process: “(1) disintegration of a primitive mental organization aimed at gratifying biol ogical needs and mindlessly conforming to societal norms, and (2) re-integration of a higher le vel of functioning in which the individual transcends biological determinism and becomes autonomous” (p. 18). However, Dabrowski failed to mention that the virtues of inner conflict and the ennobling value of suffering is only possible if the individual accept s the suffering as something to grow through (Piechowski, 2008). Dabrowski’s theory presents five hierarchical levels of personality devel opment. Tillier (1998) stated that according to TPD, most individuals live their lives at Level I, guided by their reflexive, biological impulses (first factor) and often sel f-interest and/or by trusting observance of social conventions (second factor). Some people, however , break away from this, or as Dabrowski calls it, go through a “negative adjustment” in order to develop an individualized, mindful, and rationally evaluated value structure or “positive adjustment” that acts as a benchmark by which behavior is directed. Til lier described this developmental potential as consisting of three major aspects: overexcitability, specific abilities and talents, and a strong drive toward a utonomous growth (third factor). According to Pyryt (2008), TPD hypothesizes that the inte raction between heredity and environment triggers particular self-regulating i nner forces called dynamisms that Piechowski (1975) insisted are activated during the process of disintegration. Mendaglio (2008) stated that “[f]avorable developmental potential

produces crises, characterized by psychoneuroses – strong anxieties and depression – sparking disintegration of an individual’s mental organization, the first phase of posi tive

8

disintegration and the development of personality” ( p. 18). Piechowski (1975) explained how no dynamisms are triggered at Level I, the stage Tillier (1998) descri bed as being controlled by reflexive, biological impulses. Tillier (1998) insisted that the dynamisms of “ambivalence” and “ambitendencies,” which reflect the beginning conflict between “what is ” and “what ought to be,” are turned on at Level II. Level II is a transitional period in w hich one either regresses, moves ahead, or ends in suicide or psychosis (Dabrowski, 1964). This period is precipitated by an initial, brief, and often intense crisis or series of crise s (Tillier, 1998), but the capacity for introspection is limited (Dabrowski, Kawczak, & Piechows ki, 1977). Existential despair may be the primary emotion during this phase, but the resolut ion begins as the individual creates a new hierarchy of personal values that often c onflict with the previous social values (Tillier, 1998) and makes existential choices t hat inhibit those aspects that are less like that ideal while fostering those that are cl oser (Mandaglio,2008) . This process creates additional conflicts that are focused on t he person’s analysis of their reactions to society and on the behavior of others (Til lier, 1998). Tillier (1998) stated that to move to level III, a person needs an extraordinary quantity of energy to choose between instincts (first factor), teachings (s econd factor), or one’s heart (third factor). Level III dynamisms consist of “dissati sfaction with oneself,” “feelings of shame,” and “feelings of guilt” due to that person’s percei ved incongruity between external reality and the ideal self (Piechowski, 1975; Silverman, 2008) . Tillier (1998) explained that when an individual chooses the higher, imagined ideals, more of a sense of autonomy (third factor) is felt, but when his/her behavior falls short of the i deal,

9

disharmony and a desire to reconstruct his/her life often follows, thus initiati ng a new and powerful conflict during which, in order to resolve, Psychomotor and Sensual OE must come under the control of Emotional, Imaginational, and Intellectual OE (Dabr owski, 1972). Mendaglio explained how conflict produced by frustration of basic needs is primitive, but conflict created by a failure to live up to one’s own values is more

advanced. Positive maladjustment occurs when a person transcends primitive drives and egocentric needs by rejecting social mores and conforming to their own pers onal values, but negative

maladjustment arises when people control their behaviors, regardless of cost to others, in order to fulfill their own needs (Mendaglio, 2008; Dabrowski, 1972). At the highest levels of positive maladjustment, “individuals of this kind feel responsible for the realization of justice and for the protection of others against harm and injustice. T heir feelings of responsibility extend almost to everything” (Dabrowski, 1964, p.97). Piechowski (1975) wrote that the dynamisms of “self-awareness” and “autonomy” are activated during Level IV, a stage in which Dabrowski et al (1977) portrayed as when planned solitude, meditation, and contemplation facilitates the development of decisions, attitudes, and behaviors. Dabrowski et al (1977) stated that thi s phase can result in the development of artistic expression, intuition, strength for ex ternal activities, the capacity to transcend one’s psychological type (introvert or extrovert), awareness of one’s weaknesses, and inner psychic transformation, and it can assis t in the conversion of one’s experiences and actions into factors promoting personality grow th. Level V stimulates the dynamism of “personality ideal,” which enables the individual to achieve the ideal self (Piechowski, 1975; Silverman, 2008). Tillier (1998) claimed that people who achieve level V have an integrated and well-balanced ch aracter

10

whose behavior is directed by careful, deliberately evaluated decisions based on a n individualized and chosen hierarchy of personal values. He stated that little inner conflict occurs because their behaviors conform to their inner standard of how life “ought” t o be lived. Dabrowski (1967) observed that not all people move towards this advanced level of development, but that innate ability and intelligence, combined with overexcitability , could predict potential for higher-level development. Overexcitability

Overexcitability does not mean that someone is overly excitable , but instead, indicates a heightened sensitivity and aliveness in certain areas (Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional) (Piechowski, 2006). The term overexcitability

is a translation of a Polish word whose literal meaning is super-stimulatability (Gross, 1994) in the neurological sense (Silverman, 2008). Dabrowski named it overexcitability

because such a person “is stimulated and affected to a greater degree, and prone to remaining in such a heightened state for extended periods of time” (Piechowski, 2006, p. 16). According to Lind (2000), overexcitabilities are “inborn” and indicate a ke en ability to respond to stimuli. Dabrowski (1972, p.7) stated, “One who manifests several forms of overexcitability, sees reality in a different, stronger and more multi-s ided manner.” Bouchard (2004) described how intelligence is only one component of a personality, but overexcitabilities include five “inherent” characteri stics that, to a large extent, describe the makeup of that individual’s talents and gifts. Giftedness is c omprised of a collection of characteristics in addition to intelligence (Guilford, 1979). Gi fted individuals are renowned for their highly sensitive and emotional natures, their high

11

energy levels, and their imaginations (Bouchard, 2004; Piechowski, 1997; Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan, 1982; Torrance, 1965). The five forms or dimensions of overexcitability are: 1.

Psychomotor : heightened excitability or personal energy level (Piechowski, 2006) of the neuromuscular system. This includes the capacity for being active and energetic; love of movement for its own sake; surplus energy demonstrated by rapid speech, zealous enthusiasm, intense physical activity, drivenness, and a need for action (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991; Piechowski & Cunningham, 1985). When feeling tense, people who are strong in Psychomotor OE may talk or act impulsively, display nervous habits, show intense drive, may tend towards workaholism , organize compulsively, or become very competitive (Lind, 2000). When not well directed or focused, energy may be discharged through restlessness or through brash or impetuous actions (Piechowski, 2006). Individuals high in Psychomotor OE may be incorrectly diagnosed as having Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (Levy & Plucker, 2003). 2.

Sensual : heightened experience, or sensory aliveness (Piechowski, 2006) from sensual input emanating from sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). This includes an increased and early appreciation of aesthetic pleasures such as music, art, and language and a

12

delight in tastes, smells, textures, sounds and sights (Lind, 2000). When feeling tense, people who are strong in Sensual OE often seek sensual experiences in order to alleviate inner tension and may therefore go on spending sprees, overeat, or seek being the center of attention (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991; Piechowski & Cunningham, 1985). Others may withdraw from stimulation due to feeling over-stimulated or uncomfortable with sensory input. They may become so absorbed in a particular piece of art or music that the outside world may cease to exist for them for a while (Lind, 2000). 3.

Intellectual : intellectual aliveness (Piechowski, 2006) or heightened need to seek understanding/truth, to gain knowledge, and to analyze and synthesize (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). People who are high in Intellectual OE are intensely curious, are often avid readers, and are usually keen observers. They are able to concentrate intently, engage in prolonged intellectual effort, and can be tenacious in problem solving. This may include relishing elaborate planning and may have extremely detailed visual recall . People high in Intellectual OE often love theory, thinking about thinking, and moral thinking. They are independent thinkers, ask persistent probing questions, may be very analytical and strive to synthesize knowledge, love to develop new concepts and search for truth, and sometimes appear critical of and impatient with others who cannot sustain their intellectual pace. They could become so excited about an idea that they may

13

inappropriately interrupt (Lind, 2000). Those high in Intellectual OE have the capability of being so absorbed in an idea or in music so that they can be oblivious to their surrounding, and can become so engaged in a project or practice that it can induce the condition of flow (Piechowski, 2006; Czikszentmihalyi, 1996). This must be distinguished from intelligence, as people with high intelligence might do well in intellectual tasks, but someone high in Intellectual OE cannot help but experience and analyze stimuli in an intellectual manner (Bouchard, 2004). In fact, Lysy and Piechowski (1983) found that this OE had a highly significant correlation with developmental level. 4.

Imaginational : highly excitable

imagination (Piechowski, 2006) or heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams. People high in Imaginational OE have a low tolerance of boredom and may escape boredom by creating poetry, dramatizing, indulging in fairy or magic tales, or by living in a world of fantasy (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991). They may have difficulty completing tasks when an intriguing idea sends them off on an imaginative tangent, or may write stories or draw instead of doing paperwork or participating in discussions (Lind, 2000). A less imaginational person can still imagine, but a person high in Imaginational cannot help it (Bouchard, 2004). Imaginational OE is related to but is not

14

the same as creativity, as creativity can be developed through skill building and effort (Torrance, 1972), while a highly Imaginational individual is born with the perception and perspective that fuels creative production (Bouchard, 2004). 5.

Emotional : emotional aliveness (Piechowski, 2006) or heightened, intense feelings, extremes of complex emotions, identification with others’ feelings and strong affective expression (Falk, Piechowski & Lind, 1994; Piechowski, 1991). Dabrowski perceived personality development as emotional development (Piechowski, 2006). The fundamental nature of emotional development is not only what is felt, but also how completely it is felt (Piechowski, 2006). People with high Emotional OE “live their lives with greater intensity of feeling and rich texture of experience, and …the current of life is stronger than most” (Piechowski, 2006, p.3). They have a remarkable capacity for deep relationships and show strong emotional attachments to people, places, and things (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977). In relationships, they exhibit compassion, empathy, and sensitivity. They are acutely aware of their own feelings, how they are growing and changing, and often practice self-judgment and carry on inner dialogs (Piechowski, 1979, 1991). They may be shy or timid, be ultra-enthusiastic, have strong affective recall of past experiences or concern with death fears, anxieties, or depression. Emotional OE people are often accused of “over-reacting.” Their concern and compassion for others, their focus on relationships, and their intense feelings may interfere with tasks such as

Full document contains 148 pages
Abstract: Researchers have found all five overexcitabilities to be stronger among gifted individuals but gifted gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) students frequently find themselves in a dilemma in which they must choose between academic success and social acceptance. The emotional impact of that dilemma may be heightened significantly for them. Schools have been unresponsive to the needs of gifted GLB students and lack of understanding of these sexually diverse gifted students has only contributed to their challenges. Therefore, I explored this general question: What, if any, differences among the dimensions of overexcitability are related to sexual orientation, giftedness, and/or gender? Requests for participants containing a URL for an online survey were distributed through education, gifted, diversity, and GLBT listservs at eleven geographically-dispersed colleges/universities and via MENSA e-mail lists/newsletters. Quantitative research methods were utilized to study variations in which 965 heterosexual, gay, and bisexual individuals possessed overexcitability characteristics as measured by the Overexcitability Questionnaire II. Gender role was measured with the Bem Sex Role Inventory. The Gifted, Gender, and Sexual Orientation Main Effects were significant, but more importantly, these results were more fully explained by the significant Gender by Sexual Orientation Interaction. Gender Role did not affect the results. Heterosexual males had significantly higher mean Intellectual scores than heterosexual females; heterosexual females had significantly higher mean Emotional scores than heterosexual males; bisexual females scored significantly higher than heterosexual females in Sensual, Imaginational, and Intellectual.; gay males scored significantly higher than heterosexual males in Emotional; and there were no significant differences in Psychomotor for any subpopulation. Other statistically significant results as well as unexpected results were described. In addition, included were implications for (1) Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration and (2) gifted education.