The Role of Elite Education and Inferred Cognitive Ability in Eminent Creative Expertise: An Historical Analysis of the TIME 100
Jonathan Wai 1, Matthew C. Makel 2, & James Gambrell 3
Some areas of human performance have clear outcome metrics—such as chess or running—which ease the testing of expertise models. However, there are areas of expertise (which may lead to eminence) where cultural context and other factors may have varying levels of importance, but where expertise models should still be tested to inform more comprehensive theoretical models of development. In this study, we examine the presence of elite education and inferred cognitive ability for the development of eminent creative expertise as determined by the gatekeepers who have historically identified the TIME 100—arguably a set of individuals who are highly influential in the cultural context of their time. Overall, we uncover that top 1% in IQ people are overrepresented in the TIME 100 by an effect size, or relative risk, of about 42. This ranged at the low end with Artists/Entertainers being overrepresented by a factor of about 19 and at the high end with Scientists/Thinkers overrepresented by a factor of about 70. These findings inform our understanding of the presence of highly selective educational institutions, as well as cognitive abilities, in the development of eminence across the domains included in the TIME 100. These findings also simultaneously inform the literatures on the relationship between cognitive abilities and creative expertise, and how these elements contribute to our understanding of the development of expertise in traditionally understudied domains.