Change in Self-concept and Attributional Styles Among Academically Gifted Adolescents1


  • 1

    Research reported here was funded by the Talent Identification Program at Duke University and by the first author's Duke University faculty research grant.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Paul J. Brounstein, Prism Enterprises, Inc., 5 Norwich Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20878.


A nonequivalent control group design involving academically gifted students who would participate in a residential summer program where they could achieve “consensual validation” by being with other gifted students (n= 156), those eligible but who would not attend the program (n= 172), and academically competent students (n= 106), was used to identify differences in global self-concept, the structure of self-concept and attributional style before, immediately after, and about four months after the intervention. There were no initial differences on any of the measures for the two gifted groups. However, competent students differed from gifted students on both self-concept and attributional measures. While global self concept for gifted and competent students was similar, competent students boasted significantly greater self-concepts in the domains of social and physical activities and significantly lower self-concepts in the academic domain. On the attributional style measure, gifted students were significantly less likely than competent comparisons to take credit or see as pervasive the causes for social successes.

In general, differences observed initially were robust over time. Only tentative support for the effectiveness of the short-term intervention being effective in modifying aspects of social self-concept among the gifted was obtained. Here, gifted program attenders decreased the extent to which they internalized blame for or perceived as pervasive the causes for social failure subsequent to program participation.

The relationship of observed changes in attribution to self-concept and the effectiveness of short-term interventions to effect change in cognitive functioning and personality are discussed.