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A state of intellectual or creative giftedness.

There are differences in intellectual attainment among people. Some people make strides in learning and creativity that are well beyond what would normally be expected and are called geniuses. Although definitions of genius, or giftedness, are inevitably culture-bound and subjective, psychologists are trying to determine what factors might contribute to its emergence.

In a 1981 study, William Fowler surveyed decades of scientific inquiry into the making of genius. He found that in one important study, 87% of the gifted children studied had been given substantial, intensive training by their parents at home, focusing on speech, reading, and mathematics—all highly structured avenues. The parents of these gifted children had ambitious and sometimes very specific plans for their children. The parents were nearly all from the professional class, allowing them the time and the money to devote such resources to the intellectual development of their children.

Psychologists have examined various home-tutoring techniques and have found that there appears to be no single kind of stimulation that might turn a normal child into a gifted child. All methods seem to work, provided they center on language or math. It has even been suggested that the method matters little because the child is responding to the quantity of attention rather than to the content of what is being taught.

When a person reaches school age, it becomes possible to measure his or her intelligence more reliably. Intelligence tests are the subject of intense debate among psychologists, educators, and the general public. Most standardized tests measure logical-mathematical, linguistic, and spatial intelligence. However, the idea of multiple intelligences was formulated by psychologist Howard Gardner, who defined six components of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, and personal. Today, many people regard intelligence as comprising different types of skills and talents. Most school systems, however, continue to measure intelligence, and giftedness, according to test results measuring logical-mathematical, linguistic, and spatial intelligence. Gifted people are often identified by their unusually high scores on traditional intelligence tests.

Further Reading

Allman, Arthur. "The Anatomy of a Genius." U.S. News and World Report, (October 25, 1993).

Begley, Sharon. "The Puzzle of Genius." Newsweek, (June 28, 1993).

Gottfried, Allen W., et al. Gifted IQ: Early Developmental Aspects. New York: Plenum Press, 1994.

Howe, Michael J.A. The Origins of Exceptional Abilities. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1990.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Kenneth John William Craik Biography to Jami (Mulla Nuruddin ʼAbdurrahman ibn-Ahmad Biography