Social Acceptability


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MIraca Gross, Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education and the founder of the Gifted Education Research, Resource and information Centre (GERRIC) at UNSW, writing about the 'forced choice dilemma' mentioned that the 'intellectually gifted differ from their age peers in their emotional and social development as much as in their intellectual and academic characteristics.' Likewise, writing about 'me behind the mask' Gross refers to the importance of the gifted having 'the opportunity to work and socialize with others of similar abilities and interests.'

Research conducted by Gross noted it was important that students were much less likely to underachieve in order to gain peer acceptance, where they felt “much less pressure to moderate their vocabularies, conceal interests that their classmates would not understand, and make deliberate errors in schoolwork."  Students have described similar experiences and indicated it is a relief not having to 'dumb down' language. Students are excited when other students understand and appreciate their jokes.

American researchers, Abraham Tannenbaum; followed by Bonnie Crammond and Charles Martin; subsequently supported by Australian, Neil Carrington's research, found through an examination of the characteristics of athleticism, diligence, and academic brilliance, placed randomly in hypothetical profiles, there are certain characteristics that are culturally valued. Athleticism is highly valued in these countries, but there is less value placed on diligence and academic brilliance – which impacts on gifted students who naturally crave social acceptability.

Students in schools with positively skewed populations found they developed more friendships and closer relationships than they had experienced previously.  Gross noted students developed more positive perceptions of their own social acceptability as a result.  Students have mentioned that they made real friends for the first time; that these were friends who accepted them for who they really are, not for who they had previously pretended to be.

Student experiences support the findings of these studies; however, it can depend upon an individual's expectations and experiences. Students generally valued the opportunity to be with students who shared similar abilities and interests, including the enjoyment of challenge and a love of learning.  Some students had experienced social isolation in previous settings and rejoiced in a school climate where they did not feel different.

According to Laurence Steinberg (quoted in Miraca Gross: In Her Own Write: A Lifetime in Gifted Education) socialization of students' achievement motivation occurs during early childhood. For gifted youth to achieve academically, it is important that they are placed in environments where there is a 'meeting of minds' and shared interests; where they don't have to 'dumb down' to gain social acceptability and where they are acknowledged for their intellectual capabilities.  Social acceptability has a significant impact upon students' academic achievement.

© Michele Juratowitch 

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Last reviewed 24 February 2023
Last updated 24 February 2023