It all adds up: Early achievement in math may identify future scientists and engineers

October 27, 2008

New research published in the October issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that there may be a way to identify budding scientists and engineers and thus be able to guide them, from a young age, to careers that will enable them to make the most of their abilities.

Vanderbilt University psychologists Gregory Park, David Lubinski and Camilla P. Benbow wanted to see if early mathematical reasoning ability would be predictive of future accomplishments in scientific and technical fields. The researchers identified 1500 young adolescents who had scored in the top 1% on the math portion of the SAT. Twenty-five years later, the researchers looked to see how many of those youths had gone on to publish articles in peer-reviewed journals, receive advanced degrees and earn patents. The researchers grouped the participants according to the degrees they had earned, then examined within each group the relationship between SAT math scores and scientific creativity (as determined by journal publications and patents earned).

The researchers found that there were more peer-reviewed journal authors and patent holders in the doctorate group compared to the bachelor's and master's degree groups. However, more interesting was the finding that within each advanced degree group, adolescents who had scored highest on the SAT math test were most likely to have authored a peer-reviewed scientific publication or to have earned a patent as adults. Also, when the researchers looked only at participants who earned graduate degrees from schools ranked in the top 15 for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics graduate programs, the participants who scored highest on the SAT math test still achieved more scientific accomplishments as adults.

The authors note that "educational credentials are clearly important, as are educational opportunities at outstanding universities, but that they cannot fully substitute for ability. Our results suggest that, among other things, individual differences in cognitive ability (even when measured in early adolescence) are important to take into account when identifying and modeling exceptional scientific and technical human capital."

The authors conclude that these findings are relevant because they "come at a time when national initiatives and industries are searching for new methods to identify and harness creative potential, particularly in science and technology."

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Math learned best when children move

Related Stories

Math learned best when children move

February 8, 2017

Children improve at math when instruction engages their own bodies. This is one of the findings from a recent study coming from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports. The results also ...

Sex differences in cognitive regulation of stress

February 6, 2017

While it is true that women and men respond differently to stress, current neuroscientific research only partially confirms traditional gender stereotypes. Other factors heavily contribute to the stress response such as self-esteem, ...

Fighting cholera by predicting how it spreads

December 23, 2016

In October, EPFL and Médecins Sans Frontières joined forces in an unprecedented effort to predict how the cholera epidemic in Haiti will spread. Their projections are now used by organizations battling the epidemic on the ...

Recommended for you

Talk to babies and let them babble back to bridge word gap

February 18, 2017

Even infants can have conversations with mom or dad. Their turn just tends to involve a smile or some gibberish instead of words. That's a key lesson from programs that are coaching parents to talk more with their babies—and ...

What the ability to 'get the gist' says about your brain

February 17, 2017

Many who have a chronic traumatic brain injury (TBI) report struggling to solve problems, understand complex information and maintain friendships, despite scoring normally on cognitive tests. New research from the Center ...

Emotions are cognitive, not innate, researchers conclude

February 15, 2017

Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, New York University Professor Joseph LeDoux and Richard Brown, a professor at the City ...

People are found to be inefficient when searching for things

February 15, 2017

(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. has found that when people scan areas looking for something in particular, they tend to do so in a very inefficient manner. In their paper ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.