On the importance of Immersive Experience to Study (our diverse) Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted
To study the EPG populace, we must take time to get to know them, over time, authentically.
It requires an immersive experience which is characterized by deep absorption or immersion in an activity, person(s) or environment.
Leta Hollingworth, who is the ground-breaking researcher in this field, knew this when she stressed the importance of direct contact with her participants, even when her peers in the testing profession did not. She famously said:
"The adding machine has tremendous advantages over the child as an object of intimate association. It has no parents; it does not lose its pocket-handkerchief; it does not kick or yell. All this we grant. Those who really study children — those who would study any individuals— must be prepared to take pains."
There is great variance in HOW the gifts are expressed
and in WHEN the Gifts emerge
EPGs express their exceptional abilities in diverse ways.
Some are obviously gifted in one field of knowledge or another – perhaps Mathematics, Languages, or Visual Arts, to name but a few.
Some show their innate abilities early and consistently, but others do not.
Some EPG children read at very early ages, extraordinarily well, while others are delayed in language acquisition and expression.
Many EPGs show extraordinary ability in several areas and are comfortable in expressing several abilities in the world. But some EPG children and adults are more inhibited in the expression of their abilities, and some EPG’s extraordinary gifts emerge later in life, in fields that are unexpected, often hybrid disciplines or emerging areas of study.
Each life trajectory differs, and EPG children and adults reveal themselves and their abilities idiosyncratically.
This work honours that diversity – EPGs can be found in all walks of life and all cultures. They are able-bodied or physically limited, and they may have accompanying cognitive disabilities that impact how they think and how they produce their knowledge and creativity in the world.
There is immense diversity in the ways they live and the ways they present themselves. There is great variance in their development along many aspects of human experience.
Our methods of studying and working with them must be cognizant and respectful of these learning and personality differences.
The great Iranian Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, for instance, -- the first Iranian and first woman to win the coveted Fields Medal for excellence in Mathematics -- described herself as a "slow" mathematician declaring that "you have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math." Mirzakhani solved problems by drawing doodles on sheets of paper and writing mathematical formulas around the drawings. Her daughter described her mother's work as a kind of "painting".
She asserted that:
I don't have any particular recipe [for developing new proofs] ... It is like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck, you might find a way out.