Perceptrial and Motor Skills, 2000,91, 1134-1114. O Perceptual and Motor Skills 2000 PARENTAL ATTRIBUTION O F ARTISTIC ABILITY I N TALENTED CHILDREN ' RANDY HYLLEGARD Departmerrt of Physical Edzrcation Wesfern Illirrois University Summay.-Attributed talent is a powerful construct that can have important consequences for the lives of children. Parents and schools often provide special programs to support talented children, and attributed talent can influence chiltlren's behavior. The purpose of this study was to examine how the parents of children in a program for gifted and talented students explain the artistic capabilities of their children. Analysis indicated parents attributed the artistic capabilities of the children primarily to innate talent and intrinsic motivation. However, estimates of accumulated hours of involvement in art showed that the children had similar patterns of involvement in art as did individuals with strong records of achievement in other domains. Alternative explanations for achievement, including deliberate practice theory, are discussed. In an article about the Me of the artist Vincent van Gogh, Swerdlow (1997) described how van Gogh became an important artist, "In van Gogh's case it was a combination of inherited slull, w h g n e s s to challenge accepted truths, and an intuitive grasp of color relationships" (p. 116). Granted, this account reflects Swerdlow's opinion and is not a scientific assessment of van Gogh's abhties, but his comments dustrate the point that exceptional achievements are commonly attributed to innate talents. To many people, talent implies a unique skill, with which few are born, and that does not require a lot of effort to master. Yet Swerdlow acknowledged that v'm Gogh trained extensively and actively worked to improve his craft: Wherever Vincent lived, he studied a r t . . . Vincent developed according to classical academic training: drawing, charcoal, anatomy, wood engraving, perspective, composition, tonc, and color (p. 111). H e developed a rigorous system, based on the 'laws of simultaneous contrast and complementary colors' described by Michel-Eugene Chevreul, a 19th century French chemist (p. 112). In his pocket, Vincent carried red and blue chalk, drawing on walls when describing the latest theories. To better understand color combinations, he studied balls of colored yarn, which he kept in a lacquered box (p. 116). Although Swerdlow's account points to talent and training, it is usually difficult to evaluate how high achievers actually become exceptional because accurate historical information is limited. Fortunately, in a few cases detailed first-hand accounts are available: Vincent van Gogh, for one, left such a record. 'Address enquiries to R. Hyllegard, Department of Physical Education, Western lllinois University, Macomb, IL 61455 or e-mail (Randy~Hyllegard@ccmail.wiu.edu). PARENTAL ATTRIBUTION O F ARTISTIC ABILITY 1135 Van Gogh provided an unusually detailed account of his life through his extensive letter writing. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1959, v. 1-3) includes over 600 letters written from 1872 to 1890, mostly to his brother Theo. In these letters, van Gogh described his training and experiences as an artist in great detail. The quotes cited here show that van Gogh did not necessarily consider himself artistically talented. Rather, they show he became an artist chrough many years of study, work, and training. The first two quotations are from letters written to his brother in 1882 and show some of the challenges and self doubts that faced van Gogh early in his training: Though Mauve tells me that if I s c l i ~ ~ g on l e for a few more months and then come back to him, say in March, I should then m ~ k ed a b l e drawings. I'm still in a very difficult period (v. 1, p. 282). I always try my best to put all my energy into my work, for my greatest desire is to make beautiful things. But making beautiEu1 things cosrs trouble and disappointment and perseverance (v. 1, pp. 451-452). H e wrote of his understanding of the importance of being able to draw well: And I really believe one must learn to draw in such a way that it becomes as easy as writing, and that one must know the proportions well, and learn to see so accurately that one can reproduce whatever one sees on a larger or smaller scale (v. 1, p. 458). I do not think I am mistaken in beheving that being and remaining productive depends on the studies one has and continues to make. The more variety there is in them, the more one drudges on them, the more easily one works later when it comes to making real pictures or drawings. In short, I reckon the studies to be the seed, and the more one sows, the more one may hope to reap (v. 1, p. 458). As Swerdlow discussed, van Gogh was very interested in color and deliberately worked to increase his knowledge. If you come across some good book on color theories, mind you send it to me, for I too am far from knowing everything about it, and am searching for more everyday (v. 2, p. 426). It is a fact that by studying the laws of the colors one can go from an instinctive belief in the great masters to the analysis of why one admires-what one admires (v. 2, p. 426). I am completely absorbed in the laws of colors. If only they had taught us them in our youth (v. 2, p. 429). Van Gogh described his motivation to paint as follows: What I like about painting is that with the same amounr of trouble which one takes over drawing, one brings home something [hat conveys the impressions much better and is more pleasant to look at-and ar the same time, more correct too. In a word, it is more gratdying than drawing (v. l, p. 443). Because only the few are regarded as talented, the belief that innate talents actually exist is widespread (Freeman, 1998; Rowe, 1998). Yet when the lives of exceptional achievers in diverse domains are examined, many years of purposeful activity are often found (e.g., Chambliss, 1989; Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Romer, 1993; Schneider, 1993; Charness, Krampe, & 1136 R. HYLLEGARD Mayr, 1996; Helsen, Starkes, & Hodges, 1998; Lehmann, 1998; Lehmann & Ericsson, 1998; Weisberg, 1998). Howe, Davidson, and Sloboda (1998) reviewed the evidence for innate talents and concluded that knowledge of the experiences, preferences, opportunities, practice, training, and habits of high achievers better explain achievements than do implied talents. Their conclusions were based on their proposed definition of the term "talent" that assumes these are genetic in origin and relatively rare. (1) It originates in genetically transmitted structures and hence is at least partly innate. (2) Its full effects may not be evident at an early stage, but there will be some advance indications, allowing trained people to idenufy the presence of talent before exceptional levels of mature performance have been demonsrraced. (3) These early indications of talent provide a basis for predicting who is likely to excel. (4) Only a minority are talented, for iF all children were, h e r e would be no way to predict or explain daerential success. Finally, (5) talents are relatively domain-specLfic (p. 399). Others have criticized this definition of talent (Freeman, 1998; GagnC, 1998) and their conclusions about the role of talent in achievement (Detterman, Gabriel, & Ruthsatz, 1998; Sternberg, 1998). Deliberate practice theory (Ericsson, et a/., 1993) also questions the influence of innate talents on achievement. The theory explains high achievement by pointing toward acquired characteristics that are a direct result of extended deliberate practice. The theory limits the role of innate factors to a small number of attributes such as height in some sports or general levels of activity and emotionality (Ericsson, 1998). Evidence supporting deliberate practice theory has been found in studies of achievement by musicians (Ericsson, et a/., 1993; Krampe & Ericsson, 1996), soccer and field hockey players (Helsen, et a/., 1998), and wrestlers (Hodges & Starkes, 1996). Although the theory has fostered new research into achievement, there is also criticism (Detterman, et a/., 1998; Freeman, 1998; Schneider, 1998). Most criticism has centered on the very limited influence attributed to innate factors in the theory (Feldman & Katzir, 1998). Others have contended more generally that in much of the research on achievement practice effects has been confounded with amount of expertise (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1998; Singer & Janelle, 1999). Deliberate practice theory initially addressed issues such as creativity, imagination, and style. Sirnonton (1999) suggested that there is a fundamental difference between creative achievements and other types of achievements such as athletic However, Ericsson (1999) suggested that deliberate practice theory can account for creative achievements. He argued that individuals who create unique works actively pursue the production of creative works during many years of sustained intentional effort. Van Gogh's artistic style and imagination, for which he is widely acclaimed, was uniquely his own. However, his letters indicate that his abihty to draw, paint, and PARENTAL ATTRlBUTION OF ARTISTIC ABILITY 1137 create unique works was carefully nurtured through years of training and practice as deliberate practice theory predicts. In the present study, the parents of children enrolled in an art program for gifted and talented students responded to questions about the children. The purpose was to learn how the parents attribute the artistic capabilities of the children and to examine some factors which may have contributed to artistic development of the children. Participants A questionnaire was administered to the parents of children enrolled in the Art for Gifted and Talented Students program at Western Illu-iois University. The children in Grades 4 through 8 were required to meet at least one of two criteria for admission into the program. (a) Each child must have been enrolled in or quahfied for the gifted art program in their respective school systems, or (b) they must have demonstrated marked abhty in art as judged by the faculty in the art department. Procedure Questionnaires were included in a packet given to both parents. It included a covering letter that explained the purpose of the study, a statement assuring the anonymity of the respondents and their children, and a description of how the findings would be disseminated. Completed questionnaires were returned by m d . The questionnaire contained six questions. Item 1.-Both parents indicated their background in art among four choices: (a) no background in art, (b) hobby artists (recreational artist with no formal training, (c) amateur artists (recreational artists with some training and possibly teaching or displaying works of art), or (d) professional artist (part or full-time occupational artist with formal training and possibly teaching or displaying works of art). This question was asked to test the hypothesis that the parents would have backgrounds in art. Item 2.-Parents rated their child on five domains in comparison to other children of the same age, including (a) art skills, (b) music slulls, (c) general cognitive abihty, (d) general affective abdity, and (e) general psychomotor ability. Ratings were anchored by 1: very low and 9: very high. This question was asked to test the hypothesis that the parents would rank the artistic ability of the children higher than the other skills or abilities. Item 3.-Parents rated the importance of four factors in the child's artistic development, including (a) intrinsic motivation (the child's instinctive desire to become a better artist), (b) extrinsic motivation (motivation originating from parents, teachers, friends, etc.), (c) effort (the child's instinctive 1138 R. HYLLEGARD h g n e s s to practice and work to improve), and (d) resources (financial and other means of support available to support the child's pursuits in art). Ratings were anchored by 1: very low and 9: very high. This question was asked to test the hypothesis that the parents would rank intrinsic motivation higher than the other choices. Item 4.-Parents rated their child's understanding of three factors that affect artistic development, including (a) amount of practice (the extent to which the child realizes how practice affects improvement, (b) effort (the extent to which the child is w i h g to overcome artistic challenges), and (c) practice activities (the extent to which child reahzes that practice activities should be modified as skLLls increase). Ratings were anchored by I: very low and 9: very high. This question was asked to test the hypothesis that the parents would rank effort higher than the other choices. Item 5.-Parents assigned scores to three factors responsible for the child's artistic development from among (a) family members' influence, (b) teachers' influence, and (c) innate artistic ability, such that the sum of the three items equaled 100. The higher the score, the more important the factor. This question was asked to test the hypothesis that the parents would rank innate talent higher than the other choices. Item 6.-Parents estimated the child's weekly participation in art activities at home or taking lessons and art in school, from age 5 to 15 years. Weekly estimates for practice hours at home were converted into yearly amounts by multiplying weekly estimates by 52. In school, hours were computed by multiplying by 45, reflecting the length of the typical school year. Total art was the sum of the home and school hours. This question was based on methods used by Ericsson, et al. (1993) and Helsen, et al. (1998) to estimate hours of involvement by the subjects in their respective domains of expertise. Respondents Eighty questionnaires were distributed to parents, of which 51 were returned and 45 of those were analyzed (six incomplete questionnaires were e h i n a t e d ) . Twenty-eight of the children enrolled in the program were girls and 17 were boys. The mean age of all the children was 12.5 yr. Responses Item 1.-Date for 89 of the 90 parents were analyzed (one parent was not the biological father). Fifty-three parents reported no background in art (60%), 25 were hobby artists (28%), 7 were amateur artists (8%), and 4 professional artists (5%). To test the hypothesis that more parents would have backgrounds in art than no background, a chi-square goodness of fit 1139 PARENTAL ATTRIBUTION OF ARTISTIC ABILITY was calculated. For the purpose of the test, the parents were divided into two groups, those with at least one parent who reported a hobby or better background in art (27 of the famhes) and those who reported no background in art by either parent (18 of the famhes). The test was conducted this way because many of the families reported that one parent had a background in art. Expected frequencies for the chi-square were 15.21 (33.8%) for parents with a background in art and 29.79 (66.2%) for parents with no background. The expected values were based on statistics reported in Simmons' Study of Media and Markets: Sports and Leisure (1994) where 33.8% of parents in the United States were estimated to be involved in painting, drawing, and sculpting. The chi-square showed that more parents in this study had backgrounds in art than expected 13.81, p<.Ol). In Table 1 are the numbers of parents reporting art background and the mean age and SD for the children separately for boys and girls enrolled in the art program. (xIZ= TABLE 1 Background in Art of the Parents Fathers Mothers 32 None None Hobby 9 Hobby Amateur 2 Amateur Professional 1 Professional Background in Art for O n e or Both Parents Neither parent 18 O n e or both parents 27 Sex and Mean Age of Child Artists Boys Girls n = 17 n=28 12 yr., 5 mo., SD= 1 yr., 4 mo. 12 yr., 5 mo., 21 16 5 3 SD= 1 yr., 6 mo. Item 2.-The parents rated how high on a 9-point scale they considered the art, music, general cognitive, general affective, and psychomotor skLUs of their child. Mean ratings and standard deviations for the five domains were for (a) art 8.0 f 1.0, (b) general cognitive response 7.6 f 1.4, (c) general affective 7.0 f 1.6, (d) music 6.9 f 1.9, and (e) psychomotor=6.6 f 1.7. Multivariate analysis of variance, used to test for ddferences among the five attributes, indicated a significant dfference among the mean ratings (Wdks A,,,, = 11.04, p < .01). Scheffk post hoc analysis indicated that the mean ratings for the art abhty were significantly higher than the ratings for music ability, general affect, and general psychomotor skill ( p < .05). The ratings for art and general cognitive ability were not different. Item 3 . P a r e n t s rated the influence of four factors for the child's artistic development. Means (+ standard deviations) for ratings were for (a) intrin- 1140 R. HYLLEGARD sic motivation 7.9 f 1.19, (b) effort 7.3 f 1.4, (c) extrinsic motivation 7.0 f 1.7, and (dl resources 6.6 f 1.8. To test the hypothesis that parents would rank intrinsic motivation higher than the other factors, a multivariate analysis of variance was computed for means on the factors. The analysis indicated a significant mean difference (Wilks h,++,=7.76,p<.01). Scheffk post hoc analysis indicated that the mean rating for intrinsic motivation was significantly higher than those for extrinsic motivation and resources ( p < .05). The difference between intrinsic motivation and effort was not significant. Item 4.-Parents rated their child's understanding on three factors that affect artistic development. Mean ratings (f standard deviation) for the three factors were for (a) effort 7.2 f 1.4, (b) practice 6.5 f 2.0, and (c) practice activities 6.3 f 1.9. Data were analyzed with multivariate analysis of variance = to test for differences among the means which were significant (W&s 7.46, p < .01). Scheffi: post hoc analysis indicated that rated effort was significantly greater than mean rating for practice and practice activity ( p < .05). Item 5.-Parents assigned scores to three factors in the child's artistic abhties such that the sum of the scores equaled 100. Mean ratings (+ standard deviations) were for (a) innate talent 48.9 f 15.9, (b) teachers' influence 27.6 f 12.4, and (c) family members' influence 23.5 f 12.5. To test the hypothesis that parents would rank innate talent higher than the other factors a multivariate analysis of variance was computed and indicated a significant difference among the scores ( W A S &,4,=22.07, p < .01). Scheffi: post hoc analysis indicated that the mean innate talent rating was significantly greater than means for family and for teachers' influence (p .:.Ol). To test for ddferences in attribution between parents with a background in art versus those with no background, two-way repeated analyses of variance were computed for the three mean ratings. Although there was no main effect for the two groups of parents, it was interesting to note the mean rating for family members' influence by the parents with a background in art (25.9) was 6.2 points higher than for the parents with no background (19.7), while the innate talent rating was 7.4 points lower for the parents with a background in art (45.9) than for the parents with no background (53.3). Item 6.-Parents estimated the number of hours per week that the child spent in art-related activity each year since the age of five. Consistently increased time showed a total of approximately 400 hours at age 5 and 3,800 hours by age 14. Fig. 1 shows parents' estimated hours of art at home or taking lessons, art at school, and total art. Other researchers reported estimated accumulated hours of practice in music and in sports using similar procedures. Ericsson, et al. (1993) reported estimated accumulated practice hours for three groups of young violinists, while Helsen, et a/. (1998) reported accumulated practice hours for three groups of soccer players and three groups of field hockey players. Fig. 2 PARENTAL ATTRIBUTION OF ARTISTIC ABILITY 1141 Age of Artists (yr.) FIG. 1. Estimared accumulated involvement in art (on [he basis of estimares of weekly ractice) as a function of age for the children in the art program [Art H o m e ( o 1, Art School ), Total Art ( )I .7 shows the findings from the present study and those for the best musician group from Ericsson, et al., the international soccer players, and the international field hockey players from Helsen, et al. Drscusslo~ Attributed talent is undoubtedly real, even if domain specific innate talents are not and can have important consequences for those considered to be talented (Tesch-Romer, 1998). Parents often commit family resources, and many schools provide special programs to support children who are thought to be talented (E(lrk, Carlson, O'Connor, Burke, Davis, & Glover, 1997; CBtt, 1999). Attributed talent can also influence behavior of the individual by providing support for sustained practice or by providing an excuse for not practicing, depending on how the individual responds to the attribution. The abhty to sustain practice and effort over extended periods is a key element since at least 10 years of dedicated involvement seems to be necessary for high achievement (Ericsson, et al., 1993). Although the parents in this study primarily attributed the artistic abihties of the children to talent, the children were involved in art both at home and in school, and most famihes had at least one parent with an interest in art. There is no way to measure directly innate artistic talent; however, it is possible to estimate past activity and to examine the current learning or performance environment. The estimated hours of involvement suggest that Age of Artists and Athletes (yr.) FIG. 2. Estimated accumulated involvement in art: a ( o ), music: b ( ), soccer: c (01, and field hockey: d ( a ) as a Function of age: (a) present stud (b) Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Rdrner (1993): best violin group, (c) Helsen, Sterkes, a n B k o d g e s (1998): international soccer @layers,and (d) Helsen, Starkes, and Hedges (1998): international field hockey @layers these children have accumulated experience consistent with that of high achievers in other domains (Ericsson, et al., 1993; Helsen, et al., 1998). Yet even with an extensive background in art, both the family members' and teachers' influence ratings were both lower than the talent rating. Ericsson (1996) contended that the family environment affects achievement more than talent. Bloom (1985) discussed the importance of family members' influence for achievement in a wide variety of domains including the arts. Parental involvement was divided into three phases: the early years during which parents supported their child's interests without imposing too many demands to practice or focus on one activity. This was followed by a period of more focused commitment during which parents became more actively involved in supporting the child. In the third phase, the role of the parents became more limited, m a d y providLng the financial support needed to support a full time commitment by the child. Based on the ages of these children and their accumulative involvement in art, they appear to be in the second stage of Bloom's model. Although the parents attributed the artistic abhties of these children to talent, by participating in special art programs and by having at least one parent with an interest in art, the history of the children appears to support Howe, et al.'s (1998) and Ericsson, et al.'s (1993) accounts of achievement. PARENTAL ATTRIBUTION O F ARTISTIC ABILITY 1143 The parents also indicated that the children were intrinsically motivated and that they understood effort was needed to become better artists, which supports the deliberate practice model. Motivational, effort, and resource constraints all influence the qu&ty and quantity of practice. Maintaining intrinsic motivation is particularly important because deliberate practice is not inherently enjoyable and calls for a long-term commitment by the learner. The attribution of achievement to talent may be, at least in part, influenced by cultural background (Eisenberger, 1998). The penchant in Western cultures to attribute achievement to innate talent may originate from the influence of Galton (1869/1979) and his writings on inherited "natural ability," while effort or experience receives greater credit in other cultures. 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