Overexcitabilities: deficit or pathway to higher development?

Year: 2019

Author: Lamanna, Jodi, Wormald, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities (OEs) consist ofintellectual OE, emotional OE, imaginational OE, sensual OE and psychomotor OE and manifest themselves through high intellectual
curiosity, intense feelings and empathy, vivid dreams, high capacity with the five senses, and intense restlessness (Piechowski, 2006).

The significance of the research rests on the potential for misdiagnosis in gifted students when the OEs are present and how this misdiagnosis may negatively impact the lives of the students who possess OEs.


A systematic literature review thatinvolved both gifted and nongifted (typical) participants in a comparison study was used to explore the intensities and sensitivities that are also known as Overexcitabilities. Literature was drawn from a variety of databases and included the reference lists of Silverman (2009) and Vuyk, Kerr and Krieshok (2016) who presented opposing views in the way that the OEs should be framed. Vuyk et al. (2016) claimed that the OEs should be framed through the lens of openness from the Five Factor Model (FFM) found in psychology and Silverman (2009) was adamant that the OEs be viewed through Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration (TPD).


The reviewed literature revealed that there weresignificant correlations between the OEs and giftedness and Dabrowski (1972 in Winkler & Voight, 2016) argued that OEs were valid in any combination and this should be taken into account when interpreting the results regarding OEs and the link to giftedness. Even possessing a single OE is fundamental to the way that life is lived (Piechowski, 2006).

The implications for these findings showed that if the OEs were framedthrough openness (FFM) there was a concern that the traits would be viewed as deficits or disorders (Boudreaux, 2016; Matthews, 2016; Widiger, 2015). However, when the OEs were viewed as positive traits they were recognised to have potential to lead to advanced personal
development through the driving force of the intensities (Jackson & Moyle, 2008; Kane, 2009; Piechowski, 2008).