Perseverance Cliffhanger Poster

Perseverance: Cliffhanger


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When a person is designated as an overachiever, it is often implied that his achievements derive more from his perseverance than from his aptitude or his intelligence. In terms of our model, this can occur when the learning task can be broken down into a series of subtasks of varying difficulty with difficulty roughly gauged in terms of average learning time. Because of his great perseverance, the overachiever masters to a criterion more of the easy tasks -- tasks which are within the compass of his aptitude -- than the student of average perseverance. While he may fail to learn some of the more difficult tasks, the net result may be a high score on an achievement test -- a score considerably higher than predicted from aptitude measures. This concept of overachievement is distinctly different from the concept of overachievement suggested previously; responsible users of the terms must clearly state which of these meanings they intend.

We have a feeling about the relative amenability of different factors in achievement to manipulation or treatment: "Aptitude" is regarded as relatively resistant to change, whereas it is the hope of the psychologist that he can readily intervene to modify "perseverance," "quality of instruction," or "opportunity for learning." To some extent, this feeling is justified not only by logic but also by research findings -- by the research on the apparent constancy of the IQ, on the effect of various instructional variables, etc. On the other hand if aptitude is largely a matter of prior learnings, it may be more modifiable than we think, whereas, conversely, some kinds of clinical findings suggest that motivational characteristics of the individual may be much harder to change than one might think. These considerations, however, need not detract from the basic utility of the concepts of underachievement and overachievement. The concept of "underachievement" does not automatically imply the possiblity of remediation any more than the concept of illness does. Some patients never get well, and some underachievers remain underachievers.

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