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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Technical innovation and spatial ability




A new paper from David Lubinski and collaborators looks at spatial ability measured at age 13 to see whether it adds predictive power to (SAT) Math and Verbal ability scores. The blobs in the figure above (click for larger version) represent subgroups of individuals who have published peer reviewed work in STEM, Humanities or Biomedical research, or (separately) have been awarded a patent. Units in the figure are SDs within the SMPY population.
Creativity and Technical Innovation: Spatial Ability’s Unique Role
DOI: 10.1177/0956797613478615

In the late 1970s, 563 intellectually talented 13-year-olds (identified by the SAT as in the top 0.5% of ability) were assessed on spatial ability. More than 30 years later, the present study evaluated whether spatial ability provided incremental validity (beyond the SAT’s mathematical and verbal reasoning subtests) for differentially predicting which of these individuals had patents and three classes of refereed publications. A two-step discriminant-function analysis revealed that the SAT subtests jointly accounted for 10.8% of the variance among these outcomes (p < .01); when spatial ability was added, an additional 7.6% was accounted for—a statistically significant increase (p < .01). The findings indicate that spatial ability has a unique role in the development of creativity, beyond the roles played by the abilities traditionally measured in educational selection, counseling, and industrial-organizational psychology. Spatial ability plays a key and unique role in structuring many important psychological phenomena and should be examined more broadly across the applied and basic psychological sciences.
Note that SAT composite accounted for 10 percent of variance in research success even within this already gifted subpopulation. This non-zero result, despite the restriction of range, contradicts the Gladwellian claim that IQ above 120 does not provide additional returns. In fact, the higher the IQ score above the 99.5 percentile cutoff for this group, the greater the likelihood that an individual has been awarded a patent or has published a research paper.

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