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Gifted students: individual differences between children with extraordinary intelligence

Gifted students: individual differences between children with extraordinary intelligence

October 28, 2020

What characteristics define the gifted child?

We can say, in general, that his intellectual development is always more advanced than expected due to his age. For example, if most children are always able to say a few words a year and a half after they are born, a talented child has a repertoire of words twice or three times as large as they reach that age range.

Gifted students: what factors make a child have high abilities?

When the talented child starts school, basically what you notice is: quick thinking, easy to create much more elaborate answers, and a very good use of information. These children may require adapted educational strategies, since it may be the case that they hide their talent in a normative class, they get bored or leave classes . For this and many more questions we could ask ourselves the following: What guarantees is to be part of the gifted students ? Is a talented child a successful adult?


Not necessarily.

Contextual variables

We must take into account certain variables of the context that each child may have. On one side support (or absence of this) by their parents, legal guardians or relatives. There are cases in which the family does not support them, devaluing the fact of studying and investing time in studies and emphasize the need for a salary to be brought home at the end of the month. This can cause the child to put aside his talent and focus on fulfilling what his parents ask of them. The school can ignore the talent, making the child not receive an adapted education and the child ends up getting bored and leaving classes. Or, the environment of friends can lead the child to hide their abilities through the teasing , which could even trigger Bullying dynamics.


Economic circumstances in which the person is familiarly also play an important role. There are families who can not finance the studies of their children, since their economic situation does not allow it, no matter how much both parents work and there are certain aids or scholarships. Consequently, the child will have to adapt to the situation and his talent will not be able to develop as expected.

Finally, there are other variables to be highlighted, such as the opportunities that each one brings to life, or their own health.

Analyzing real cases

All of the above is reflected in a study conducted by Melita Oden together with Terman, in 1968, which compared the 100 most successful men and 100 least successful men in a group; defining success as the celebration of jobs that required their intellectual gifts . The successful ones included professors, scientists, doctors and lawyers. The unsuccessful included electronics, technicians, police, carpenters and pool cleaners, as well as failed lawyers, doctors and academics. In the study it was concluded that the successful and the unsuccessful hardly differed in the average IQ . In any case, the differences between them turned out to be in the parents' confidence, persistence and principles of encouragement.


Smart children and upbringing

When we speak of intelligent children, the main criterion focuses on the intellectual quotient and academic environments, but we must also take into account the factors socioemotional . In the study carried out by Terman and Melita we can observe a clear bias in the sample since it is only university population. Terman ended up becoming a convinced geneticist, but did not take into account the historical variables of the moment such as war, etc. Many subjects died there, others due to alcoholism, suicides ... factors that have to do with socio-emotional characteristics.

Alencar and Fleith (2001) noted a lesser emphasis on emotional development due to the hegemony of educational plans little focused on strengthening a positive self-concept and promoting its social development. They also noted that the vast majority of papers presented to date on the subject were not related to socio-emotional development. Terman acknowledged, however, that children who had an IQ above 170 had difficulties in social adjustment, being considered by their teachers as isolation (Burks, Jensen and Terman, (1930), Gross (2002)).

An emotional vulnerability has also been found, in reference to the ability of these students to understand and commit themselves to ethical and philosophical issues, before emotional maturity has been developed to deal with these types of issues (Hollingworth, 1942).

Gifted students and school expectations

As external agents we can observe how students with greater intellectual capacities are prone to suffer what Terrassier called the "Negative Pygmalion effect". This occurs when, as there are gifted students who have a greater potential than teachers, the latter tend to expect a performance in the average range from these students, and then they encourage some students to perform well below of their real abilities (Terrassier, 1981).

As a last point, it is worth mentioning a study carried out on the detection of gifted students , in which the structures of the implicit theories of educators' intelligence were analyzed and the relationship between them and the beliefs about the identification of gifted students. Educators who rated creativity as an important attribute of intelligence tend to favor multiple methods to identify gifted students.

On the contrary, educators who supported the use of intelligence tests as the main basis of talent identification generally agreed that the analysis capacity it was part of the structure of intelligence (García-Cepero, et al, 2009).

Bibliographic references:

  • Alencar, E.M.L.S. & Fleith, D.S. (2001). Superdotação: determinantes, educação e ajustamento. São Paulo: EPU.
  • Garcia-Cepero, M.C & McCoach, D. B (2009). Educators' implicit theories of intelligence and beliefs about the identification of gifted students. Universitas Psychologica 8(2) 295-310.
  • Terman L. M., & Oden, M. H. (1959). Genetic studies of genius. Vol. V. The gifted at mid-life: Thirty-five years' follow-up of the superior child. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Terrassier, J.C. (1981/2004). Les enfants surdoués ou la precocité embarrassante (6th ed.). Paris, ESF.

The 10 Struggles Only Highly Intelligent People Have (October 2020).


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