Mental-attentional capacity and cognitively gifted children in Russia
The analysis of cognitive competence can predict the level of a child’s develop- ment and, thus, can play an important role in their future academic progress. Although the majority of children show comparable cognitive performance for their age, some children significantly outperform their peers of the same age. Based on the Theory of Constructive Operators (TCO), children’s mental attentional capacity (i.e., the number of items that a child can simultaneously manipulate in their mind) normally increases from about 3 units when they enter school to about 7 units when they finish. In this study, we use parametric visual-spatial measures of mental-attentional capacity to examine whether we can iden- tify cognitively gifted children. In contrast to intelligence tests, which are still a popular measure of giftedness, mental-attentional capacity measures do not depend on context knowledge and have already been used in Canada, South America, Europe, and Australia (Arsalidou & Im-Bolter, 2017), supporting the theoretical prediction of mental-attentional capacity development suggested by the TCO (Pascual-Leone, 1970). We report data on more than 750 children in Moscow schools to evaluate whether Russian children follow similar stage-wise increases in mental-attentional capacity and to estimate the percentage of cog- nitively gifted children identified by these measures. Our data show agreement between the performance of Russian children and the theoretical prediction, which supports the cul- ture-fairness of the tasks. The percentage of gifted children varied from 0.22% to 9.44%, de- pending on a measure. The task that showed results closer to the theoretical expectation also reflected the percentage of cognitively gifted children similar to what was reported based on studies in the United States (0.7% to 9.9%; Lupart, & Pyryt, 1996).