When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with a learning disability. By the age of three, I had already suffered from twenty-one ear infections. As a result, I developed "Central Auditory Processing Disorder," which made it very difficult for me to process auditory input in real time. For much of my youth, I felt as though I was always one step behind everyone else. Frustrated, I retreated into my own little world in my mind, full of fantasy and imagination. Unfortunately, even when I outgrew my disorder in middle school, the self-doubt and anxiety remained-- along with the label.
My early childhood experiences set off a fascination with individual differences. On the playground, I would try to befriend at one least one person from every clique. With the "rockers," I would throw on my corduroy pants, sing Nirvana songs, and complain about the oppression of school and society. With the "computer geeks," I would write computer programs on my x86 IBM clone (including modifying the famous therapist program "ELIZA"), and play all the latest calculator games (including Tetris) on my awesome TI-92. With the "jocks", I'd repeatedly bruise myself attempting to dribble past people much taller than myself on the basketball court. My early interests in the diversity of the human mind as well as our fundamental human nature led to formal scientific investigation in college and graduate school, where I studied and conducted research in cognitive science and developmental psychology.
In this blog, Beautiful Minds, I will showcase the rich diversity of the human mind, as well as discuss the latest research on the many aspects of the human mind that unite us all. I will cover such questions as: How do we think, reason, and create? What cognitive mechanisms and environmental conditions support compassion and perspective taking? What environmental conditions are most conducive to satisfying our fundamental human needs for autonomy, competence, relatedness, belonging, and uniqueness? What about the conditions that foster learning, curiosity, passion, play, and inspiration? Why and how do people differ so much in cognitive abilities, personality traits, and talents? Why do people differ so much in what captivates their attention? What are the cognitive mechanisms, personal characteristics, and developmental trajectories that lie beneath the various labels we frequently stamp on schoolchildren, including "specific learning disability," "giftedness," "autism," "schizophrenia," and "ADHD"? What are the developmental influences that contribute to the phenomena of prodigies, savants, and late bloomers?
I don't see this world as a zero-sum game. Extraordinary minds are often pitted against mediocrity. In this blog, I will not take that approach. Instead, my aim is to increase our understanding and appreciation of the many different kinds of minds that exist on this planet, while simultaneously allowing that everyone has the potential for greatness. Of course, my understanding of all these issues is always a work in progress, and in the process of revision. Therefore, I look forward to learning from everyone.
2013 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved
Note: I am deeply appreciative of the kind folks at Psychology Today, who originally gave me the platform for Beautiful Minds. From 2008 to this post, I wrote about many of these topics on their website, and have formed wonderful, meaningful relationships with the editors.
Image from wiseGEEK