Books: Redefining Intelligence and Achieving Greatness

Scott Barry Kaufman has been on the radar in recent times after I came across a number of his articles on Beautiful Minds – a blog on Scientific American. A psychologist, author, and science writer, Kaufman focusses a lot on two subjects that are very near and dear to me – intelligence and creativity.

One of the most interesting things about Kaufman that caught my attention was that when he was a child, he was relegated to “special education” because he had an auditory learning disability. A chance encounter with a special education teacher changed everything. Now he is a psychology professor at New York University with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Yale. He is also the award winner for the 2011 Daniel E. Berlyne Award from the American Psychological Association for outstanding research on aesthetics, creativity, and the arts by a junior scholar, and the 2011-2012 Mensa International Award for Excellence in Research. If you haven’t already seen it, you can hear about his personal story that he shares on Tedx:

Last year, Kauffman published two books (one he wrote and the other he edited) that I must have in my collection:

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined

Ungifted Intelligence Redefined

About this Book

Child prodigies. Gifted and Talented Programs. Perfect 2400s on the SAT. Sometimes it feels like the world is conspiring to make the rest of us feel inadequate. Those children tapped as possessing special abilities will go on to achieve great things, while the rest of us have little chance of realizing our dreams. Right?

In Ungifted, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—who was relegated to special education as a child—sets out to show that the way we interpret traditional metrics of intelligence is misguided. Kaufman explores the latest research in genetics and neuroscience, as well as evolutionary, developmental, social, positive, and cognitive psychology, to challenge the conventional wisdom about the childhood predictors of adult success. He reveals that there are many paths to greatness, and argues for a more holistic approach to achievement that takes into account each young person’s personal goals, individual psychology, and developmental trajectory. In so doing, he increases our appreciation for the intelligence and diverse strengths of prodigies, savants, and late bloomers, as well as those with dyslexia, autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

Combining original research, anecdotes, and a singular compassion, Ungifted proves that anyone—even those without readily observable gifts at any single moment in time—can become great.

You can read more about it here.

The Complexity of Greatness : Beyond Talent or Practice

The Complexity of GreatnessAbout this Book

What are the origins of greatness? Few other questions have caused such intense debate, controversy, and diversity of opinions. In recent years, a large body of research has accumulated that suggests that the origins of greatness are extraordinarily complex. Instead of talent or practice, it’s talent and practice. Instead of nature or nature, it’s nature via nurture. Instead of practice, it’s deliberate practice. Instead of the causes of greatness in general, it’s the determinants of greatness specific to a field. The Complexity of Greatness brings together a variety of perspectives and the most cutting-edge research on genes, talent, intelligence, expertise, deliberate practice, creativity, prodigies, savants, passion, and persistence. A variety of different domains are represented, including science, mathematics, expert memory, acting, visual arts, music, and sports. This book demonstrates that the truth about greatness is far more nuanced, complex, and fascinating than any one viewpoint or paradigm can possibly reveal. Indeed, it suggests that the time has come to go beyond talent or practice. Greatness is much, much more.

* * *

A little steep at $67, I would have omitted this from the list if it weren’t for the fact that this book contains contributions from a host of contributions from the likes of Darold Treffert, K. Anders Ericsson, Ellen Winner and many others. Just check out the contents…

  1. Greatness as a Manifestation of Experience-Producing Drives – Wendy Johnson
  2. If Innate Talent Doesn’t Exist, Where Do the Data Disappear? – Dean Keith Simonton
  3. Where Does Greatness Come from? A Treasure Hunt without a Map – Samuel D Mandelman and Elena L Grigorenko
  4. Whither Cognitive Talent? Understanding High Ability and Its Development, Relevance, and Furtherance – Heiner Rindermann, Stephen J. Ceci, and Wendy M. Williams
  5. Young and Old, Novice and Expert: How We Evaluate Creative Art Can Reflect Practice or Talent – James C. Kaufman, John Baer, and Lauren E. Skidmore
  6. Prodigies, Passion, Persistence, and Pretunement: Musings on the Biological Bases of Talent – Martha J. Morelock
  7. Savant Syndrome: A Compelling Case for Innate Talent – Darold A. Treffert
  8. Mindsets and Self-Evaluation: How Beliefs about Intelligence Can Create a Preference for Growth over Defensiveness – Paul A. O’Keefe
  9. Giftedness and Evidence for Reproducibly Superior Performance: An Account Based on the Expert-Performance Framework – K. Anders Ericsson, Roy W. Roring, and Kiruthiga Nandagopal
  10. Yes, Giftedness (aka “Innate” Talent) Does Exist! – Francoys Gagne
  11. My Exploration of Gagne’s “Evidence” for Innate Talent: Is it Gagne Who is Omitting Troublesome Information so as to Present More Convincing Accusations – K. Anders Ericsson
  12. Scientific Talent: Nature Shaped by Nurture – Gregory Feist
  13. The Promise of Mathematical Precocity – Linda E Brody
  14. Memory Expertise or Experts’ Memory? – John Wilding
  15. Practice and Talent in Acting – Tony Noice and Helga Noice
  16. The Rage to Master: The Decisive Role of Talent in the Visual Arts – Ellen Winner and Jennifer E. Drake
  17. Music in Our Lives – Jane Davidson and Robert Faulkner
  18. Creating Champions: The Development of Expertise in Sports – Paul R. Ford, Nicola J. Hodges, and A. Mark Williams

Well, perhaps a little heavy reading and possibly unnecessary if you’re only interested in the “how to” rather than the “why”.

If you can wait, I’ll be writing about it after I read them. Otherwise, feel free to get your own copy…

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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