Vocational interests of intellectually gifted and highly achieving young adults


Miriam Vock, Universität Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 24/25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany (e-mail: miriam.vock@uni-potsdam.de).


Background. Vocational interests play a central role in the vocational decision-making process and are decisive for the later job satisfaction and vocational success. Based on Ackerman's (1996) notion of trait complexes, specific interest profiles of gifted high-school graduates can be expected.

Aims. Vocational interests of gifted and highly achieving adolescents were compared to those of their less intelligent/achieving peers according to Holland's (1997) RIASEC model. Further, the impact of intelligence and achievement on interests were analysed while statistically controlling for potentially influencing variables. Changes in interests over time were investigated.

SampleN= 4,694 German students (age: M= 19.5, SD= .80; 54.6% females) participated in the study (TOSCA; Köller, Watermann, Trautwein, & Lüdtke, 2004).

Method. Interests were assessed in participants’ final year at school and again 2 years later (N= 2,318).

Results. Gifted participants reported stronger investigative and realistic interests, but lower social interests than less intelligent participants. Highly achieving participants reported higher investigative and (in wave 2) higher artistic interests. Considerable gender differences were found: gifted girls had a flat interest profile, while gifted boys had pronounced realistic and investigative and low social interests. Multilevel multiple regression analyses predicting interests by intelligence and school achievement revealed stable interest profiles. Beyond a strong gender effect, intelligence and school achievement each contributed substantially to the prediction of vocational interests.

Conclusions. At the time around graduation from high school, gifted young adults show stable interest profiles, which strongly differ between gender and intelligence groups. These differences are relevant for programmes for the gifted and for vocational counselling.