Monday, January 13, 2014

Human Potential and Excitability as it Relates to Gender

Understanding higher development is important for strengthening the connections in performance for employees, students, and professionals. The ability to recognize these potentials at a younger age is important for grooming and development. Educators often assume there are sex differences in the types of excitable potentials but research by Wirthwein, L. et. al. (2011) helps us understand this may not be the case.

The concept of overexitability (OE) was proposed by Debrowski with his theory of positive disintegration. Without OE gifted individuals cannot develop beyond the average level.  He defined it as, “overall developmental potential is composed of specific talents, abilities, intelligence and OEs. OE is understood as a biologically rooted super sensitivity or over-reaction to external as well as internal stimuli” (Ackerman, 2009). Others have defined it as “modes of enhanced mental functioning (Piechowski & Colangelo, 1984).

As a person experiences internal states of conflict brought about by their high sensitivity to drawing in information they move through periods of disintegration. They smash their concept of self and reform that concept at a higher level. The more they smash and rebuild, the higher the level of development. Some may reach a level 5 where their internal and external states are in alliance and they are considered the profound individuals experienced in history books.  At this point, they are at the highest state of human development and have their own personality autonomous from society and its norms.

The Five types of OE’s are as follows:

-Psychomotor (high levels of energy and physical activity)
-Sensual (enriched sensory experiences)
-Imaginational (rich associations of images and impressions)
-Emotional (high intensity of feelings)
-Intellectual (avid pursuit of knowledge and theoretical analysis).

The researchers conducted studies using those with intellectual giftedness as this correlates to higher levels of academic performance. They studied German 3rd graders and then tested them again at 15.3 years of age. All participants had IQs above 135 and showed other signs of potential development. OE’s were assessed through the OEQII.

The results indicated that there wasn’t a statistical difference between males and females in the type of OE’s experienced. It is often believed that males showed intellectual and psychomotor while females displayed emotional and sensual OE’s. Their report indicates that this may not be true. Development is gender neutral.


 Even though the report does not include this concept it is possible that the results match up to the higher androgynous sex identities that incorporate both male and female traits (as defined by social norms) into a higher sense of being.  The biologists  Ludwig von Bertalanffy introduces the concept of robopath to define most of society. This means that people are focused primarily on either fulfilling their biological needs or strict adherence to social norms without conscious awareness of why and how they are acting. They are unaware of what they believe and why they believe it.  If this is true, then much of society will continue to display the same patterns over and over until something within the environment forces it to change. Could this be why society either rises or falls together? Is it an inability to adjust to new environments, economic realities, or ecological developments?

Ackerman, C. (2009). The essential elements of Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration and how they are connected. Roeper Review, 31.

Piechowski, M. & Colangelo, N. (1984). Developmental potential of the gifted. Gifted Child Quarterly, 28.

Wirthwein, L. et. al. (2011). Overexcitabilities in gifted and non-gifted adults: does sex matter? High Ability Studies, 22 (2).

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