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Conceptions of Giftedness

  • Scott Barry Kaufman
  • Robert J. Sternberg

First, “giftedness” is a label—nothing more. We are frequently asked whether such-and-such or so-and-so child is gifted. The answer depends on the criteria one sets. But there is no one absolute or “correct” set of criteria. Criteria for such labeling are a matter of opinion, nothing more, and there are many disagreements as to how the label should be applied.

Second, the label can be applied in either a more general or a more specific way. The more general way implies that giftedness is relatively general across many domains—that is, someone is either gifted or not. On this view, someone who is gifted is gifted very broadly. The more specific way implies that giftedness is something that is potentially limited to one or several narrow domains—for example, verbal skills; or within the verbal domain, writing skills; or within the writing domain, fiction-writing skills. Indeed, relatively few successful fiction writers are also successful nonfiction writers, and vice versa.

Third, conceptions of giftedness can and do change over time and place. At times in the past, a child’s ability rapidly to learn classical Greek and Latin might be viewed as an important sign of giftedness. Today, such an ability generally would be relatively less valued. Similarly, the skills that lead a child to be labeled as gifted might be different in a hunting and gathering village in rural Tanzania than in urban Los Angeles.

Fourth, conceptions of giftedness can be based on either explicit theories or implicit theories of giftedness. An explicit theory is one proposed by a scientist or educator who has studied giftedness and has arrived at a conception of giftedness that has been subject to some kind of empirical test. An implicit theory is simply a layperson’s conception of a phenomenon. It has no explicit scientific basis. It might be looked at as a “pragmatic” conception rather than as one based on rigorous research.

As we review conceptions of giftedness, keep in mind the four constraints above. The chapter does not provide final “answers,” because there are no such answers. Rather, each reader will have to decide for him- or herself which conception or conceptions he or she finds to be compelling.

Keywords

Intelligence Test General Intelligence Gifted Student Gifted Child Talent Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Barry Kaufman
  • Robert J. Sternberg

There are no affiliations available

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