Great Expectations: Creative Achievements of the Sociometric Stars in a 30-Year Study

Article excerpt

The creative achievements and characteristics of a group of ten high school students identified as the most creative by their high school peers were compared to those of ten participants from the same group who had the greatest number of publicly recognized creative achievements approximately 30 years later (Sociometric Stars vs. Beyonders). Mini-case studies were presented for the 10 Sociometric Stars and hypotheses were advanced to explain their failure to qualify for the Beyonders. Results of the comparisons indicate that life situations such as divorce and caring for children, in addition to personal factors such as love of work, sense of purpose in life, and high energy, were more important in affecting creative achievements than the usual predictors of creativity: intelligence, academic achievement, and sociometric nominations.

Introduction to Great Expectations

by Bonnie Cramond, Editor

The following is a report that was never published from the longitudinal studies conducted by E. Paul Torrance. His studies, which were begun in 1958 at elementary and high schools in Minneapolis, were designed to investigate the ability of several measures gathered from the participants to predict their adult creative achievements years later. There were several data collection points: a 7-year follow-up of the high school students, a 12-year follow-up of the same students, a 22-year follow-up of the students who had been in elementary school, and a 40-year follow-up of the elementary students. The results of these data collection points have been published elsewhere, all but the results of the 30-year follow-up. These data were collected by a graduate student to use in his dissertation, but he somehow lost them, and the results were never published.

I found this study in Torrance's archives recently when going through his papers and considered it too important to leave unpublished. I revised and edited the paper somewhat to bring it in line with current APA guidelines, reorganized some of the tables for greater clarity, and changed some of the wording for consistency. For example, in the original paper, Torrance used the terms "Sociometric Stars" and "Great Expectations" interchangeably to refer to the same group of individuals who received the highest number of sociometric votes from their peers as most creative. I changed all references to the group to the name "Sociometric Stars" to avoid confusion. Otherwise, the article remains as Torrance wrote it, and those who have read his work should recognize his voice in it.

How important are the expectations of peers in the future creative achievements of adolescents? Are one's classmates in a position to judge or predict his or her future creative behavior?

The primary objective of this article is to analyze the data concerning the 10 Sociometric Stars, students chosen by their classmates in high school to be outstanding creative individuals, and to see how they are different from the Beyonders, individuals from the same longitudinal study group identified in adulthood because their creative achievements were so much higher than the others.

Background

Several investigators of creative achievement (Amabile, 1986; Shekerjian, 1990; Torrance, 1981, 1987) have concluded that extraordinary talent, personality, and cognitive ability do not seem to be enough--it's the "labor of love" aspect that determines creativity. Two of these investigators (Shekerjian, 1990; Torrance, 1983) have suggested more elaborate lists. A passionate love of what one is doing may be at the root of the other characteristics, but Shekerjian and Torrance's lists offer additional clues.

Shekerjian (1990) studied 40 of the prestigious MacArthur Fellows through interviews, records of their creative productions, and nomination data. The MacArthur Awards "enabled the recipients to enjoy the ease of financial strain, the gift of time, and the star-making machinery that goes along with it all" (p. …