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Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids who don’t always get A’s
The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers, And noses that go on for days . . .
Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids they call crazy or dumb,
The kids who don’t fit, with the guts and the grit, Who dance to a different drum . . .
Here’s to the kids who are different,
The kids with the mischievous streak,
For when they have grown, as history’s shown,
It’s their difference that makes them unique.

— Digby Wolfe, “Kids Who are Different”

I’m excited to announce the official release of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined!

It has been a very long, winding, and emotional journey for me to get to this point. As a child, I was labelled with an auditory learning disability which left me always feeling one step behind my peers. While I soon outgrew my earlier difficulties and was both ready and eager for more intellectual challenges, I remained in special education. Trusting the experts, I retreated further and further into my own rich fantasy world, which only confirmed everyone’s expectations. It wasn’t until 9th grade, when a teacher took me aside and questioned my place in this world, that I gained the courage necessary to become the author of my own life story.

Ungifted includes my personal and scientific exploration of a broad range of research on the development of IQ, expertise, talent, and creativity. My investigation spans genetics and neuroscience, as well as evolutionary, developmental, social, positive, and cognitive psychology.

Through many years searching for the truth about potential, I’ve become convinced that it’s time for a broadened conceptualization of human intelligence that takes into account each person’s unique package of personal characteristics, passions, goals, values, and developmental trajectory. That emphasizes the value of an individual’s personal journey. That extends the time course of intelligence from a two-hour testing session of decontextualized problem solving to a lifetime of deeply meaningful engagement. That arms students with the mindsets and strategies they need to realize their personal goals, without limiting or pre-judging their chances of success at any stage in the process. That shifts the focus from doing everything right to a lifelong learning process where bumps and detours are par for the course. From a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. From product to process.

By redefining and broadening the concept of intelligence, hopefully we can increase society’s appreciation for the intelligence and diverse strengths of many different kinds of minds, including prodigies, savants, and late bloomers, as well as those with dyslexia, autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

Please help share this important message by:

1. Forwarding this article to a friend or colleague you think would appreciate Ungifted.

2. Spreading the word that Ungifted is available for purchase on your social networking outlets (twitter, facebook, G+, etc.)

3. Writing a review of Ungifted on your personal blog or goodreads. If you’re in academia, please submit a review to a peer-reviewed journal or if you’re a journalist please pitch a review to a major news outlet.

4. Writing a review of Ungifted on the Amazon page. This would be really helpful, as Amazon determines its publicity based in part on Amazon reviews.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. I hope Ungifted inspires you to believe in yourself and set yourself free!

© 2013 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved

Scott Barry Kaufman About the Author: Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow on Twitter @sbkaufman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. rshoff 1:27 pm 06/4/2013

    Wow. As an adult, I felt that if only my deficiencies had been recognized early then I could have been saved from a lifetime of frustrating maladaptive failure. In my fantasies, those programs could have helped me overcome these deficits and ‘succeed’ traditionally. I would have been ‘saved’. Now I’m beginning to think that what I lacked was the courage and motivation to engage with the world on my terms. So it’s becoming more clear that those programs pigeon-hole kids. It seems I may have been luckier to have been left to my own devices, while not perfect, perhaps it provided a small measure of relative success. Therefore, with that explanation, I say kudos and much success to the writer and those that contributed to this. Good luck to you!

    In terms of Plato’s view of knacks and skills, true art, who is to decide empirically what is makes a human relevant? Furthermore, how can you quantify them on a few tests?

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  2. 2. dubina 2:50 pm 06/5/2013

    What passes for intelligence in modern societies is more a matter of knowledge and personal experience than genes. It is more circumstantial to personal experience than heritable. You are on the right track.

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  3. 3. Tolstoy1 11:50 am 06/10/2013

    There is one thing I can guarantee about IQ scores. If you get one group of people together who all have high IQ test scores, and another group who all have low IQ test scores, the high IQ group will win a trivia and puzzle game contest versus the low IQ group. Other than that, IQ test scores don’t accurately predict success in anything.

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  4. 4. bucketofsquid 4:01 pm 06/21/2013

    I have yet to see an accurate definition of intelligence. Until that happens, all of this “special ed.” and “gifted” programs exist primarily for school board members to claim they are “doing something”.

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  5. 5. mo2uall 10:21 am 06/24/2013

    My child was assessed by our school district at 4 years old and they used evaluations they chose to get the results they wanted to get the label they wanted. Consequently my child was incorrectly labelled autistic and we were told our child would never talk and we should plan life-long care. Of course, we walked out perplexed and upset. I then started to research what happened by our district’s evaluation process and realized they certainly label to get the funding and assessments are one-sided to suit what the school district wanted at the child’s expense (and family’s expense meaning emotionally and view of what so-called capabilities were and their determination of what our child’s future held), they were more into getting the evaluations accomplished and placing our child. We were also told there was nothing we could do as parents, to leave it all up to them. I then, during researching, found that to be completely untrue and the evaluations were incorrect. Such as giving a verbal cognitive for a non-verbal child at the time. I can’t imagine listening to what they thought and continuing with their recommendations. I think it’s very sad that some school districts (some, not all, and there are some great ones out there, but my experience and others I know) have found the evaluation system is one sided and gears to what the school district wanted. I ultimately homeschooled due to this and our child is nothing like they said and is independent, thriving, certainly the language delay levelled out and the gaps filled in. Evaluations by reputable professionals showed our child’s true diagnosis and abilities and a glimpse into the future. I say this just so parents go with their gut and seek out reputable professionals for evaluations. I can’t wait to read your book.

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