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The Personality Factors Which May Be Involved in the Development of Mathematical Ability

Karon, Bertram P.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Mathematics, Need Gratification, Nonverbal Ability, Personality Traits, Problem Solving, Self Concept


Two hypotheses concerning the development of mathematical ability are examined: 1) that a variable that might be termed body sense gratification orientation is negatively correlated to mathematical ability; and 2) that the degree to which an individual prefers to work his problems out by himself, as opposed to working them out through people, is positively correlated with mathematical ability. Support for the first hypothesis is presented from two studies of over-protected children, a preliminary study using the Personality Research Inventory (PRI) scale of self-acceptance, and a research study using the Four Picture (projective) Test. All this support was consistent and held for different age groups. The author hypothesizes that people with a high degree of body sense gratification orientation desire immediate gratification which is likely to be more forthcoming from literature than from computation or difficult problem-solving. Support for the second hypothesis is presented using the PRI scale of self-sufficiency, and the Four-Picture Test for empathy responses. Other factors in development of mathematical ability, including possible displacement of aggression, are discussed. Other factors noted by Van Lennep and Plank are summarized, including degree of concern with physical changes at puberty, number of changes in schools, and tendency to have older parents and/or to have one parent foreign born.

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