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The Wiley Handbook of Genius by Dean Keith Simonton

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5 Historiometric Studies of Genius

Dean Keith Simonton

Introduction

As seen in the preceding chapters (Chapters 1–4), researchers can examine genius from multiple perspectives. These perspectives can be distinguished in several different ways (Simonton, 1999). To start, we can distinguish between qualitative and quantitative approaches (Simonton, 2003b). Historiography, psychobiography, and interviews tend to be qualitative, whereas psychometrics is necessarily quantitative – after all, the Greek root “metrics” means “measure.” Another distinction entails whether the approach tends to focus on the single case or multiple cases – on one genius or many. Psychobiographers invariably focus on a particular genius, whereas psychometricians must necessarily assess multiple cases. The computation of descriptive and correlational statistics would be impossible otherwise. Interviews most often apply to multiple cases in order to discern the common patterns. Yet historiography can go either way. Clearly, the biographer concentrates on a single case, but sometimes the historian adopts the comparative perspective. The most famous example of the latter is Plutarch's classic Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans in which parallels are often explicitly drawn between an ancient Greek and a later Roman – such as the great orators Demosthenes and Cicero, respectively.

This last example illustrates another contrast between the perspectives – how historic are the cases. Historians and psychobiographers ...

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