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individual personality characteristics constituting the subjective conditions for successfully performing a particular type of activity. Abilities are not tantamount to the individual’s knowledge and skills. Revealed in the quickness, depth, and stability with which the methods and procedures of a particular activity are mastered, abilities are the internal psychological regulators that determine the possibility of mastery.

There are three basic problems in the study of abilities: the origin and character of abilities, types of abilities and their diagnosis, and the principles underlying the development and formation of abilities.

In philosophy, abilities were long regarded as properties of the soul, as special, innate, hereditary powers. These ideas are echoed in everyday speech and have even been revived in the scientific literature, owing to advances in genetics. The English philosopher J. Locke and the French materialists, who proposed that the individual’s abilities are completely dependent on external conditions, criticized the idea of innate abilities as groundless. The mechanistic character of this point of view was overcome in Marxist philosophy, which poses the problem of abilities on the basis of an understanding of human beings as aggregates of social relations and on the basis of the dialectical approach to interpreting the relationship between the internal and the external. Anatomical and physiological characteristics, the preconditions for the development of abilities, are innate, but abilities develop through the performance of different types of activities and through complex interactions between individuals.

An ability manifested in the performance of a particular activity has a composite structure and diverse components. This structure is associated with the common phenomenon of compensation: when certain components are weak or absent, a high ability for a particular activity is attained by developing other components. The composite structure of abilities also explains the observation that different combinations of personality and physiological traits are found in individuals who demonstrate a highly developed ability in a particular activity.

In psychology there is no uniform, generally accepted typology of abilities. Various principles have been used in constructing such typologies, including differences in the main types of activities (ability in engineering, science, and the arts, and on a more specific level, ability in mathematics, physics, and so forth), differences associated with the sense organs and higher nervous system, and operational definitions based on various tests, the results of which are factor analyzed. Testing is an attempt to identify, on an experimental basis, general abilities that meet the requirements for not one but many different types of activities. Psychologists sometimes postulate the existence of general intellect, or an invariable, comprehensive intellectual endowment (intelligence quotient). Soviet psychological literature criticizes this postulate.

The diagnosis of abilities or of the potential for their development is of great practical significance, particularly for vocational guidance in the choice of a career and in sports. Diagnosis is based on tests that make possible the quantitative evaluation of abilities.

The qualitative level of abilities is expressed in the concepts of talent and genius, which are usually distinguished according to the results of activity. “Talent” refers to a set of abilities that make it possible to produce something outstanding for novelty, a high degree of refinement, and social significance. Genius, the highest degree to which talent develops, makes possible fundamental advances in a particular sphere of creativity.

The development of abilities for particular types of activities is a major problem in psychological and pedagogical research, which has demonstrated the possibility of developing an ability by creating a personality set to master the object of an activity. The scientific development of programs of action to master a particular type of activity is very important. For example, researchers have created methods for developing an ear for music in persons who lack this ability.


Teplov, B. M. Problemy individual’nykh razlichii. Moscow, 1961.
Kovalev, A. G., and V. N. Miasishchev. Psikhologicheskie sposob-nosti cheloveka, vol. 2. Leningrad, 1960.
Leont’ev, A. N. “O formirovanii sposobnostei.” Voprosy psikhologii, 1960, no. 1.
Petrovskii, A. V. Sposobnostii Irud. Moscow, 1966.
Krutetskii, V. A. Psikhologiia matematicheskikh sposobnostei. Moscow, 1967.


References in periodicals archive ?
The special significance of these results is that spatial ability is thought to be one of the most sex-linked areas of math" said Aronson.
However, McGlone's study puts a dent in the deterministic argument that gender differences in mathematical ability and other disciplines are due exclusively to biology, and indicates that by applying the results we can work towards reducing this gap, if not eliminating it.
Other studies have shown that girls may be receiving subtle nudges from society to pursue or avoid certain paths based on the perceived ability of girls in fields such as math and science.
The "Interpreting Your Ability Explorer Results" section in Figure 1 reports the occupations in which a person can use persuasive ability, the highest self-reported ability, in conjunction with the person's other abilities.
An important component of the Level 2 AE's counselor's report (not shown) is the Ability Configurations section, which gives minimum recommended percentile ranks for various career groups.
For example, a high persuasive score in the Ability Areas chart of Figure 1 can have different meanings, depending on such supporting data as school grades and performance in nonschool activities.
Their own evidence (buried in Appendix 6), as well as a vast literature in empirical social science, clearly indicates that controlling for ability lowers but does not eliminate the return to schooling measured in terms of earnings.
Accounting for ability weakens but hardly eliminates the role of education in raising earnings.
What little is known indicates that ability - or IQ - is not a fixed trait for the young (persons up to age 8 or so).
Best features: Ability to view results on screen, process multistate and consolidated returns and switch between government form and input view.
Improvements desired: Improved manuals, ability to reprint 1040 organizer, improved customization of transmittal letters, extension of tax review system to business products, quicker updates, increased speed, ability to view output on screen, increased sophistication of diagnostics.
Ability to archive version of 1992 software and user's 1992 data files on CD-ROM for permanent storage, offering direct access to software on the CD-ROM.