The Cognitive bases of exceptional abilities in Child Prodigies

Child prodigies are defined as those individuals who reach a professional level of achievement in a culturally relevant domain before the age of 10 or adolescence. Although child prodigies are often the object of historical wonder and modern day awe, because of the difficulty involved with assembling a large sample of prodigies, until recently, little was known about the source of their achievements. Recent studies have begun to tackle this enigma, and a few traits have surfaced as key underpinnings of prodigiousness across domains: an average or higher IQ, extraordinary working memory, and a heightened attention to detail. The present study investigated whether the prodigies’ cognitive profiles differed according to their area of specialty. Using the Stanford Binet 5th ed. intelligence test the investigator assessed the cognitive profiles of 18 child prodigies across the domains of art, music, and math. The results suggest that prodigies in each domain have distinct cognitive profiles. While all of the child prodigies had exceptional memories, the music and math prodigies scored significantly higher on working memory than the art prodigies. The math prodigies displayed the highest levels of general intelligence and extraordinary visual spatial skills. The art prodigies displayed a surprising deficit in visual spatial skills, obtaining scores much lower than both the math prodigies and music prodigies. The differences in the prodigies’ cognitive underpinnings across domains may have implications for the general population.



About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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