Dogmatic Thinking Among Gifted Students in High School - Literature Review

Published: 2021-07-19 15:01:16
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Wesleyan University
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Literature review
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Dogmatism is generally a set of beliefs acceptable to a certain group of people without being questioned. Gifted high school students usually have a tendency towards dogmatic thinking. The word dogma is transliterated from a Latin word dogma which means that one which is thought to be true (Marks & Dollahite, 2016). Beliefs which are accepted and not expected to be questioned, especially political or religious doctrines, can be described as dogmatic. Bloom (2008) defines dogmatism as an unfounded positiveness, especially in opinion, or arrogant assertiveness that opinions are the truth and cannot be challenged. Dogmatic people assume that their beliefs and assumptions are correct although the assumptions may be misguided. These beliefs and assumptions are adopted tentatively as a response to any additional information. Dogmatic people assume that their beliefs are their absolute truth and are impervious to any information or persuasion which contrasts their beliefs (Bloom, 2008). This rigidity to persuasion is usually the epitome of dogmatism.

Giftedness in children is defined as a situation where children have abilities significantly greater than the norm for their age (Gross, 2000). For decades, the meaning of the word gifted has disputed. It has varied between outstanding capabilities in a range of activities to a single score in a standardized test. Experts in gifted education have argued out that the unclear definition of gifted is hindering developments in that field. Attempts to explain the meaning of giftedness has led to more questions rather than answers. However, giftedness is manifested by high abilities in one or more of these domains; creativeness, intellect, leadership, artistic or a specific subject such as mathematics or science. The vagueness of the meaning of giftedness has led to lack of enough credible data on giftedness.

According to George (2012), people demonstrating dogmatism usually exhibit these five these five cognitive characteristics: intolerance to ambiguity, rigid certainty, limited personal insight, compartmentalization and defensive cognitive closure. These individuals usually attempt to avoid uncertainty and ambiguity, and they seek clarity and conviction in all issues. Dogmatic people usually seek interaction with people who demonstrate firm and unwavering beliefs and prefer to join groups in which all members share the same beliefs. Johnson (2009) explains that in shunning ambiguity, dogmatic individuals assume that only one ideology is the correct one. They do not tolerate thoughts or opinions that their ideology may be incorrect. If their doctrine is religious, these individuals believe that their faith cannot be questioned and it is incontrovertible. If it is an egalitarian philosophical doctrine, dogmatic people despise conservative perspectives.

Dogmatic people are always certain that their opinions are the utmost truth and are biased against any other information. Taylor (2014) explains that the beliefs for dogmatic individuals are rigid. These individuals are impervious to information that may contradict their positions. They tend to exhibit confirmation bias which can be defined as the tendency to interpret new information as a confirmation for ones existing beliefs. These people usually admire leaders who maintain who do not change their beliefs with varying times. Davies (1998), studied the rigidity associated with dogmatic high school students. He exposed participants to information that contradicted their original beliefs on a topic. The participants were asked to re-state their beliefs after receiving the additional contrasting information as well as identifying reasons that contradicted their beliefs. When compared to other participants, dogmatic students were more rigid and less inclined to use the contrasting information to adjust their beliefs. Davies (1998) explains that dogmatic people were less likely to identify insights that contrasted their beliefs. In fact, when they acknowledged their belief, they were unable to express its contradiction later. The individuals are inclined to neglect the contrasting insights or treat the information as insignificant or irrelevant. Failure to consider other peoples opinions renders them insensitive to the feelings of others.

As gifted children are diverse, they do not exhibit the same traits shown by other gifted children. However, many common traits are associated with gifted children. Gifted children are unusually alert, and this alertness may be vivid even in their infancy (Jepsen, 2009). They are also rapid learners and have an excellent memory. They comprehend things quickly and do not easily forget. These children use unusually large and complex sentence structures with complex vocabularies to communicate, and they enjoy problem-solving, especially numbers and puzzles (Webb, 2012). Their thinking can be described as complex, abstract and insightful. The children also possess a highly developed sense of curiosity which enables them to ask probing questions and to develop interests in experimentation and doing things differently. Gifted children are usually preoccupied with their own though and may experience vivid imaginations even at the pre-school age.

Dogmatic individuals exhibit a process called compartmentalization. Brown (2017) describes this as a process in which the individuals isolate conflicting thoughts from their mind and thus remain oblivious to contractions against their beliefs and doctrines. For example, a dogmatic individual may believe that God accepts everyone but he may perceive homosexuals as evil and unacceptable to God. The insight of dogmatic people is limited, and they are oblivious to their flaws and their shortcomings. These people do not reflect on their own mistakes, problems, and regrets and certainly do not consider this dogmatism as a psychological problem. They feel as if they are not treated with the respect they deserve.

Further, according to a study carried out by Johnson (2009), dogmatism in individuals is characterized by three emotional aspects: association of beliefs with fear or anxiety, the association of beliefs and anger and existential despair. Discussions about their beliefs may induce fear or anxiety in dogmatic individuals. These people feel agitated or angry when their doctrine or beliefs are questioned. As a result, they tend to avoid situations that may lead to querying of their beliefs. Dogmatism acts as an attempt to curb anxiety in order to foster certainty. Challenging the beliefs of a dogmatic individual can lead to unwarranted anger in the person (Johnson, 2009). The person may seem hostile, aggressive, defensive and antagonistic. It can be argued that this is a defensive mechanism aimed at concealing fear or anxiety. Existential fear is characterized by feeling by an individual that his own life is worthless. Dogmatic people feel that their lives are worthless and their actions cannot shape this chaotic, vacuous and uncaring world.

The emotional aspect among dogmatic high school students has been further investigated by other scholars. According to a study conducted by Fonseca (2016) dogmatism among students is characterized by five behavioral characteristics which include fixation towards status and power, arrogance, authoritarian submission, authoritarian aggression, and biases toward their own group. High school students with dogmatic thinking tend to be obsessed with status and power (Moore, 2011). They, therefore, enact behaviors which are aimed at boosting their power and status. The individuals are obsessed with the accumulation of power and affluence and are very sensitive to hierarchies with beliefs that members of high echelons deserve special treatment. They have a perception that their social groups are superior to other groups of people and consider members of rival groups as incompetent or immoral. It is only their groups that are considered intelligent, ethical and diligent.

Dogmatic people demonstrate authoritarian aggression which is a facet of right-wing authoritarianism. It is their beliefs that members of rival groups or people violating rules and regulations should be defeated, punished severely and made to suffer for their transgressions (Gross, 2000). Another facet of right-wing authoritarianism demonstrated by dogmatic individuals is authoritarian submission. Gross (2000) asserts that dogmatic individuals believe that people should submit to authority and leaders should be followed but not questioned. They also believe that leaders deserve special privileges due to their leadership positions. Dogmatic people have an arrogant and defensive communication style. Often, their comments and remarks are derogatory, dismissive and contemptuous.

Several studies have been performed on events that precede dogmatism. In most cases, dogmatism is assumed as an attempt by an individual to prevent negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger. According to Taylor (2014), dogmatism is not associated with a demographic group such age, religion, gender or education. This means that it is not prevalent in one population group sample based on gender, age or religion. Dogmatism has an inverse relation with the concept of openness to experience. This concept shows utmost flexibility in a person which contrasts the rigidity showed by a dogmatic individual. Thus, openness to experience can be used to curb dogmatism. Anxiety and fear also evoke many characteristics associated with dogmatism. Therefore, dogmatism may be increased by the determinants of anxiety.

There is a negative correlation between dogmatism and measures of verbal memory. People who have a difficulty in remembering a series of phrases or words tend to show high levels of dogmatism (Brown, 2007). Brown (2007) exposed participants to a set of sentences that missed the last word. The participants had to identify the missing word and memorize all the answers. This task assessed the ones phonological loop of working memory which is vital in language comprehension. Brown (2007) found out that people who performed the task well had a lower probability of exhibiting dogmatism. He used Rokeachs model to characterize dogmatism. In this model, a belief system is developed by individuals, and it consists of all assumptions that a person characterizes as the truth. A disbelief system is also constructed, and it consists of all assumptions that are assumed false. These people do not recognize any contradiction. For example, a person may believe that democracy is actually right and he might not agree that all people should be granted the right to vote. The contradiction is either ignored, or it is treated as insignificant.

Brown (2007) concluded that limitation of individual's working memory by hindering the ability of a person to retain and transform many concepts at a time might diminish their capacity to compare distinct beliefs. Individuals with limited working memory will probably lack the ability to contrast beliefs with each other and fail to compare any new evidence with their existing beliefs. They are unable to consider several beliefs and at once and any contrasting information is usually disregarded.

Dogmatic individuals compartmentalize their beliefs and disbeliefs. This compartmentalization can be represented as a mechanism underpinning dogmatism. Davies (2005) utilized a paradigm referred to as release from proactive inhibition to study the dogmatism's cognitive underpinning. This paradigm usually presents four triplets of words to a participant. The first three triplets consist of related words representing things in a common group such as animals. The fourth triplet consists of a different group such as flowers. After presenting the triplets to...

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