Friday, February 28, 2014

Mental Models of the Prodigy and Gifted

Researchers have often what makes the gifted and child prodigy different from the rest of the population. Memory, intelligence, sensory perception, etc. are some of the explanations. A paper postulated by Larry Vandervert (2007) discusses that the learning power in the gifted is based on collaboration between cognitive functions and memory to create “acquisition of superior power, control, and speed of motor activities”. This results in better selection of potential actions based on representative situations. In this case, practice makes perfect. 

As feed forward cerebellar control models are fed back through working memory areas of the cortex the thought processes of working memory become faster, more focused, and optimally timed (Ivry, 1997). It is the process of developing models, sending through memory, and creating a performance outcome. The models continue to develop with experience and reflection (memory) to create stronger models. 

What is a feed forward cerebellar control model? This is a model based upon experience that makes a prediction that a certain action will have a specific result. Putting your hand out to catch a ball, the words used to communicate with others, and the actions that result in certain benefits in the environment.  As people become more familiar with the world they naturally create predictions to events and actions. 

Child prodigies are often good at a particular function like music or sports. Their success is limited to a specific learned activity based upon practice. As they get older these activities may be applied to other areas of their life. For example, a prodigy in a sport can apply developed models for other activities through experience. Genius is based on the ability to take successful models and apply them to other arenas of life giving one greater insight. 

Imagine if a person builds multiple models in their activities. This person could better predict actions and outcomes to apply more control over their environment. For example, a violinist learns multiple models for playing and can create higher levels of performance. These models often overlap and develop different ways of competing and completing this task at a higher level. The more experience and practice a person gains the better they get.

As more models of the environment are created it develops a hierarchy of different models called Hierarchical Modular Selection and Identification for Control. When a stimulus in flow (an environment stimuli) enters the body from the outside, the gifted can differentiate better and find a model that predicts the outcome and meaning of that information based in their experiences. The more experience and practice, the higher developed the models and the associated actions.

Who are the gifted, genius and child prodigy? They are the ones who create more models of the world around them and can use those models for certain activities. The gifted are those with the potential, the child prodigy is one with specific displayed talent, and the genius are those who have hierarchies of models that apply to multiple areas of life. This is why the child prodigy can sometimes grow into the genius if their models expand to create a hierarchy of thought that leads to abilities in multiple areas.

Ivry, R. (1997) Cerebellar timing systems, in: J. D. Schmahmann (Ed.) The cerebellum and cognition (New York, Academic Press), 555–573.

Vandervert, L. (2007). Cognitive Functions of the Cerebellum Explain How Ericsson's Deliberate Practice Produces Giftedness. High Ability Studies, 18 (1).

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