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Role models

A role model is a person who provides a model for imitation or emulation. Role modelling can explain the clustering of eminence within families as well as Kroeber's cultural configurations.

It was found that the number of notables in one generation is a positive function of the number of models available in the preceding generation. It was also found that eminent personalities were usually exposed, very early in life, to illustrious predecessors. Walberg, Rasher and Parkerson (1980) who studied the biographical antecedents of fame found that about 82 percent of their subjects were exposed to numerous adults very early in life, about 68 percent grew up in the presence of adults who were working in areas where eminence would be achieved as an adult, and 63 percent were exposed to eminent persons at a very early age. These eminent individuals thus had many potential role models to identify with in the course of their early development. At another age level, it has been shown that over half of the Nobel laureates in science were apprentices to previous laureates (Zuckerman, 1977). These findings suggest that the availability of creative role models may be essential to the development of genius.

However, sometimes models can have a stifling effect on creative achievement. It was formulated that two conditions under which the influence of a famous model is beneficial rather than silencing (Simonton, 1994: 380): 1) models are more conducive to personal development if an aspirant admires more than one; 2) the ambitious youth can emulate predecessors who are more remote in cultural or historical circumstances and who, therefore, cannot be simply copied because the template must be adjusted to new conditions.

Role models. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.
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