Beyond the Threshold Hypothesis: Even Among the Gifted and Top Math/Science Graduate Students, Cognitive Abilities, Vocational Interests, and Lifestyle Preferences Matter for Career Choice, Performance, and Persistence
K F Robertson et al.; 2010
The assertion that ability differences no longer matter beyond a certain threshold is inaccurate. Among young adolescents in the top 1% of quantitative reasoning ability, individual differences in general cognitive ability level and in specific cognitive ability pattern (that is, the relationships among an individual’s math, verbal, and spatial abilities) lead to differences in educational, occupational, and creative outcomes decades later. Whereas ability level predicts the level of achievement, ability pattern predicts the realm of achievement. Adding information on vocational interests refines prediction of educational and career choices. Finally, lifestyle preferences relevant to career choice, performance, and persistence often change between ages 25 and 35. This change results in sex differences in preferences, which likely have relevance for understanding the underrepresentation of women in careers that demand more than full-time (40 hours per week) commitment.