WHAT IS GIFTEDNESS?
Our conception of giftedness rests on three theoretical premises. The first is that abilities are forms of developing expertise (Sternberg, 1998). Second, beyond the level of expertise exists the realm of elite talent (Subotnik, 2000; 2004a), or what we call scholarly productivity or artistry (SP/A). Finally, in the course of transition from novice to expert and beyond, key personality, ability, and skill factors become increasingly or decreasingly important (Subotnik, Jarvin, Moga, & Sternberg, 2003). In accordance with these premises, we believe that abilities have interactive genetic and environmental components, yet are modifiable and capable of being flexibly deployed. We view abilities as necessary but not sufficient for generating expertise or SP/A. From our perspective, giftedness in its early stages is defined as the efficient yet comprehensive development of ability into competence in a domain. During the middle stage, giftedness becomes associated with precocious achievement of expertise. Finally, we view giftedness in adulthood as SP/A, taking the form of unique contributions to a field or domain. In the course of offering details on the transformation of abilities into competencies, expertise, and, in some cases, SP/A, we focus on examples from the domain of music.
Substantial evidence exists that abilities can be enhanced, at least to some degree (see Feuerstein, 1980; Herrnstein, Nickerson, deSanchez, & Swets, 1986; Nickerson, 1986; Nickerson, Perkins, & Smith, 1985; Perkins, 1995; Perkins & Grotzer, 1997; Ramey, 1994; Sternberg, 1988, 1994, 1997; Sternberg & Spear-Swerling, 1996). The best evidence favors a complex mix of genetic and environmental origins of abilities, interacting in ways that are not as yet fully known (see Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1997).