An author with autistic savant syndrome, Daniel Tammet thinks the astounding abilities he has, such as being able to recite 22,514 digits of pi from memory, are not due to some cerebral or genetic fluke, but based on an associative form of thinking and imagination.
He thinks differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated, to the detriment of how most of us value our own abilities and develop our talents. He comments:
“Genius, in all its forms, is not due to any mere quirk of the brain; it is the result of far more chaotic, dynamic, and essentially human qualities such as perseverance, imagination, intuition, and even love.
“Such an understanding of the human mind enriches, rather than detracts from, the popular appreciation of the accomplishments of highly successful individuals.”
From his book “Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind” – see my High Ability site article (with video): Savant abilities and learning differences relate to developing multiple talents.
Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman notes, “Although their unusual abilities compel considerable attention, there are fewer than 100 known prodigious savants living at the present time.”
He interviewed Tammet for his (Kaufman’s) “Beautiful Minds” blog. Here is an excerpt:
Daniel Tammet: I don’t think it serves very much to label someone. IQ is a very good example of that and the example that I explore and critique in Embracing the Wide Sky, this idea that we can take the population and according to the Bell Curve say ‘well look you are 119, he is 85, she is 107′. I’m not really sure that it tells us very much.
I recently read an interview with Steven Pinker and he said something I would definitely agree with. It was an interview he gave about genetics and the fact he had his own genome studied and the results published, and he was discussing the genetics of intelligence.
In the interview he said that regardless of people’s attitudes about IQ, it’s a very difficult subject, it’s something that gets people very heated up, it’s intelligence that matters and not differences in intelligence.
That these are the things that scientists need to focus on, these are the things that are really interesting, and will tell us a great deal about the mind and human behavior and so-on, and differences will tell us very much less.
It’s very hard to know what intelligence is (again, I make that point very clearly in Embracing the Wide Sky) and we don’t really know what it is. It’s one of those big abstracts and everyone has an opinion but it’s difficult to narrow down so let’s look at that, and let’s look at ways of teaching children methods that work, the real essentials, literacy, numeracy, and so on.
Rather than dividing children according to a kind of astrological division, saying look you’re Aquarius, you’re smarter than he is because you’re a Leo. That doesn’t make any sense at all.
Continued in post Conversations on Creativity with Daniel Tammet- Part IV.
American education and the IQ trap By Scott Barry Kaufman. “What does it mean to be gifted in the United States? A national survey in 2011 found that the predominant method of assessment, by far, is the administration of IQ tests and standardized academic tests…”
Dr. Kaufman thinks “a lot of things that we call ‘quirks’, or maybe even some things we call ‘disabilities’, can turn out to be some of the determinants of high levels of creativity that we never could plan ahead of time.” – From “Conversations on Creativity with Darold Treffert” – see my article Creativity and Asperger’s.
Brain Differences and Creativity – “There are a number of intriguing examples of notable creative ability and expression related to changes in brain structure and function from disease, stroke, injury, developmental disability or other conditions.”
Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind, by Daniel Tammet.
How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker.
Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD.
Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome by Darold Treffert, MD.