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     Giftedness characteristics

The attributes and issues of the gifted do not disappear in adulthood. However, indicators of giftedness are frequently less obvious than in childhood, often hidden within a matrix of defensive cover-ups developed over the years to offset the powerful expectations of the norm group. 

Many gifted adults do not live and work in an atmosphere of understanding and support that allows them to feel valued and to make full use of their talents.

Mary-Elaine Jacobsen*[Advanced Development, Volume 8, 1999]

Her book:  The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius

Also see her articles.

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  Characteristics often experienced by gifted individuals:

Are you a good problem solver?   Can you concentrate for long periods of time?
Are you perfectionistic?

Do you persevere with your interests?  Are you an avid reader?  
Do you have a vivid imagination?

Do you enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles?   Often connect seemingly unrelated ideas?
Do you enjoy paradoxes?

Do you set high standards for yourself?  Do you have a good long-term memory?   Are you deeply compassionate?

Do you have persistent curiosity?   Do you have an excellent sense of humor? 
Are you a keen observer?

Do you have a love of mathematics?   Do you need periods of contemplation?  
Do you search for meaning in your life?

Are you aware of things that others are not?   Are you fascinated by words?  
Are you highly sensitive?   Do you have strong moral convictions?

Do you often feel out-of-sync with others?    Are you perceptive or insightful? 
Do you often question rules or authority?

Do you have organized collections?   Do you thrive on challenge?   
Do you have extraordinary abilities and deficits?

Do you learn new things rapidly?    Feel overwhelmed by many interests/abilities?    Do you have a great deal of energy?

Often take a stand against injustice?   Do you feel driven by your creativity?   
Love ideas and ardent discussion?

Were you advanced developmentally in childhood?   
Have unusual ideas or perceptions?   Are you a complex person?

"If 75% of these characteristics fit you, you are probably a gifted adult.

"Giftedness was not commonly identified in children until recently, so many adults are unaware that they were gifted as children. But even those who were identified tend to believe their giftedness disappeared before adulthood."

  [Adapted from the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development]

[Image from History of Phrenology and the Psychograph page on Museum of Questionable Medical Devices site:]

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Giftedness is not a matter of degree but of a different quality of experiencing: vivid, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, commanding -- a way of being quiveringly alive."  Michael Piechowski, PhD

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The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off...

They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.

Pearl Buck   (1892-1973)

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Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.

Annemarie Roeper

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Jodie Foster

The thing about prodigies is that you're necessarily all by yourself, because you're changing things.

A lot of powerful women are feeling that, and certainly older actresses, because they have to stand outside of the system and say, "I'm standing on this ground, and I'm moving forward." You're the herald of a new age.

[Premiere / Women in Hollywood special issue, 1993]
I have this incredibly passionate feeling about what I do that can make me annoying, and I recognize it.

Sometimes, I'll talk about a movie I've seen, and then I'll start seeing foam coming out of my mouth.

I go, "And then they did this and they did that!" People ask me if I could just lighten up a little bit.

[from E! Online interview by Jeanne Wolf] 

Related page: Intensity / sensitivity

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Social reactions

Richard E. Grant commented in a recent interview, “You only learn about yourself, it seems, from how other people react... From the get go I've been accused of asking too many questions and being too passionate and extreme about what I like or what I don't like...

"It's like gorgonzola cheese - I'm probably an acquired taste! You know, I'm right in there. And it's not something that I really have control over so much as just that that's, you know, the DNA of my personality.”

[ interview about his autobiographical film "Wah-Wah" which Grant wrote and directed]

Continued on GT Adults blog

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If you peruse the literature on giftedness, you will likely encounter the terms "intellectually gifted" and "creatively gifted." 

The use of these two expressions stems from our general disagreement about the definition of giftedness, and the continued use of these terms may unintentionally have a negative effect on the self-concepts of our gifted students. ///

Not surprisingly, determining the boundaries between creativity, intelligence, and giftedness is complicated. 

Would we view a child that knows all the answers but rarely finds the problems as gifted? What about a child that excels at rote memory tasks but lacks the ability to make connections among concepts?

In addition, there seems to be overlap among gifted traits and those of "disorders," including nonverbal and language-based learning disabilities, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.

As psychologists, this makes diagnoses especially tricky.

So why do we insist on distinguishing between the "intellectually gifted" and the "creatively gifted?" 

The use of such terms implies that each group lacks something the other apparently has. I argue that to be gifted one must also be creative. 

Creativity is not reserved for artists, musicians, dancers, and writers. Surely everyone recognizes that there are creative physicists, doctors, psychologists, mathematicians, and the like. 

To be creative requires different aspects (and perhaps "amounts") of intelligence, depending on one's field, but in any case, it assumes a general level of intelligence. 

I wholeheartedly agree with Jane Piirto's statement in her book, Understanding Those Who Create: "Creativity is the underpinning, the basement, the foundation, which permits giftedness to be realized."

Andrea Esperat, PhD - in Gifted Dialogue, Spring 2003  [Center for Gifted Education Policy Activities, American Psychological Association]

image from book : The Evolution of Consciousness -  by Robert Ornstein, PhD

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Excerpts from Temperament Quotes by Teresa Gallagher

ENTP, ENFP, INFP, and INTP: These are the easily the most common temperaments on the internet for adults who say they are ADD, although they make up a total of less than 10 percent of the general population... 

Though very different from each other, all four temperaments are defined in part by the potent combination of conceptual and divergent thinking preferences. There is something about this combination which just seems to make people lose their car keys - and love the Internet.

All four temperaments are considered very creative and as adults they are very often idealistic and on the lookout for ways to improve the world. They are fiercely individualistic and independent (stubborn?), even as children, which can make things difficult for parents.

"At their best, ENTPs are ingenious and capable problem solvers. They have enormous energy to change the world for the better, driven by an innate sense of fairness and an ability to see past the obvious to the novel."   example: Ted Turner

"At their best, INTPs are independent and original people. They can be ingenious problem solvers and superlogical analysts of everything. Creative thinkers, they are capable of understanding and synthesizing complex and technical information with almost no effort." example: Albert Einstein

"At their best, ENFPs are clever, warm, responsive, and imaginative people. When we parents can have the courage to turn our backs a bit on society's conventions and instead stand by our ENFPs -- in all their occasional quirkiness -- we send a loud and clear message of unconditional love that lasts a lifetime... Allowed to dance to their own spirited and unique beat, they grow up to be independent, confident originals, with a multitude of talents and a resilience to overcome obstacles." example: Sandra Bullock

"At their best, INFPs are deeply faithful and compassionate people with strong convictions and great empathy.  They are creative, visionary, and inspired problem solvers and original and alternative thinkers."   example: Ann Morrow Lindbergh

More on Jungian/MBTI temperament typing on Temperament Definitions page

**related books :

Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Keirsey

People Patterns: A Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments -- by Stephen Montgomery, PhD 
Citing dozens of characters from popular books, movies, and TV --from Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz to Sex and the City and Star Trek -- Dr. Montgomery brings alive the four basic "people patterns" that hold the key to personality types. Features a new short-form personality test (the "Shorter Sorter") and easy-to-read portraits of the Sixteen Types.

[summary from Keirsey Temperament and Character website]
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There is indirect evidence for atypical brain organization and innate talent in gifted children:

Many gifted children and savants have enhanced right-hemisphere development, language-related difficulties, and autoimmune disorders. ... gifted children have social and emotional difficulties that set them apart. ...

Few gifted children go on to become adult creators because the skills and personality factors required to be a creator are very different from those typical of even the most highly gifted children. 

From summary on - about article in Am Psychol [2000] by Prof. Ellen Winner, Boston College and Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education

**book: *Ellen Winner, PhD.*Gifted Children : Myths and Realities

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I've never seen giftedness expire. I've seen it get worse - that the sensitivity deepens, the perfectionism gets more intense, the excitability factor - all this energy will erupt, just makes more of itself.

All of these things refer to people who are self-aware; for people who don't have the awareness, they could easily just die on the vine.*

**Mary Rocamora

See On Giftedness - an interview with Mary Rocamora

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It's well known among researchers of the gifted, talented and creative that these individuals exhibit greater intensity and increased levels of emotional, imaginational, intellectual, sensual and psychomotor excitability and that this is a normal pattern of development. 

It is because these gifted children and adults have a finely tuned psychological structure and an organized awareness that they experience all of life differently and more intensely than those around them.

These characteristics, however, are frequently perceived by psychotherapists and others as evidence of a mental disturbance because most of the population lacks accurate information about the special characteristics of gifted individuals, couples and families. 

Most people don't know that what is considered normal for the gifted is most often labeled as neurosis in the general population and as a result, the gifted are personally and emotionally vulnerable to a variety of unique relationship difficulties at home, work, school and in the community.

from article Misdiagnosis of the Gifted by Lynne Azpeitia, M.A. and Mary Rocamora, M.A.

Related pages:.
Dabrowski..excitabilities / advanced development.......intensity / sensitivity........

learning differences  ADHD; dyslexia, non-visual spatial learning etc

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Some Traits of creative people

[from Creativity and Creative Problem Solving list, June 5, 2000, from: Robert Alan Black.

In 1980 as part of my doctoral studies of Creative Thinking I did a study of the traits of Creative People. I chose two educational journals and two psychological journals and searched for articles on the traits of creative people from 1950 to 1980.

In total their were over 150 authors, researchers ranging from J. P. Guilford, E. Paul Torrance, Sidney J. Parnes to Gary Davis, Dorie Shallcross, Dorothy Sisk, Morris I. Stein, Irving Sato, etc., all researchers and experts on creativeness, creative thinking, creativity and creative people.

From the list came over 400 separate traits. From that I pulled out 32 that at least 5 of the separate experts agreed and wrote on.

Those 32 have been part of an on-going study I have been doing since 1980. The first section, 3 chapters of my book BROKEN CRAYONS is devoted to the signigicance of those 32 traits to everyone, not simply 'CREATIVE PEOPLE", what we can learn from these as individuals/team leaders/managers, and how we might use them to further develop our own creative abilities.   They are...  

sensitive    not motivated by money    sense of destiny     adaptable

tolerant of ambiguity     observant     perceive world differently

see possibilities     question asker    can synthesize correctly, often intuitively

able to fantasize    flexible    fluent    imaginative     intuitive    original

ingenious    energetic    sense of humor    self-actualizing    self-disciplined

self-knowledgeable    specific interests     divergent thinker    curious

open-ended    independent    severely critical    non-conforming   confident   
risk taker    persistent

These represent those that at least 5 people wrote about or agreed were the traits of highly creative people. HIGHLY creative people, not just creative people. 3 of them have been used on several tests of creative thinking skills including E. Paul Torrance's famous Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking that have been used around the world since the mid-60s, Guilford, Davis and others: fluency, flexibility, elaboration, orginality.  I haven't checked over the past 10 years in the journals. Perhaps even more traits have been sorted out or discovered.

Alan       Robert Alan Black - author of:

**book: **Broken Crayons: Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines

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"The word 'gifted' is in a fallen state, and the thing is, you just find another metaphor... Perhaps saying 'I'm really feeling my potential burgeoning within me, and I want to be of use to the world.. to use the best of what I have.'"

,,,,,Jean Houston  [from interview]

**book: The Possible Human : A Course in Enhancing
Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities

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I believe a 'talented' person is one who has learned how to effectively cultivate
and polish any of the many desirable capabilities with which most of us are born
but few of us nurture. One cannot inherit a talent for the violin -- there are no violins
in nature. Instead, one must be motivated, able to benefit from practice, and persevering.

Marilyn vos Savant (listed in "Guinness Book of World Records" for 'highest IQ")

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    Sample Questions from the book "The Gifted Adult"

"Choose all of those statements that best describe the way you experience the world.
Please keep in mind that Everyday Geniuses tend to undervalue their own abilities."

I have always hand an insatiable curiosity.      

I am able to run my mind on multiple tracks at the same time.

I learn rapidly and retain / apply what I learn.

I tend to be very independent.

I tend to be less motivated than others are by rewards, bonuses, and praise.

At times I have asked embarrassing questions or rudely pointed out truths at the wrong time.

My preference for the complex can fool me into underestimating the simple answer.

I like to refine and improve others' innovations.

I feel comfortable with a wide range of emotions.

I can see many sides to nearly any issue.

Honesty, integrity, and ethics are important to me.

I can help others understand themselves better.I am a seeker and champion of ultimate truths.

My nervous system is easily aroused, and I am able to discern the slightest changes in my environment (aromas, shifts in light, etc.) or detect irritants (e.g. scratchy sweater label).

I can feel along with and for others.

I set high standards for myself and for others, and am my own worst critic.

I tend to look for consistency and security in systems, rules, and orderliness.

I am often considered a "driven" person.

I have maintained my childlike sense of wonder.

I am intent on searching out universal truths.

I am deeply disturbed by inequity, exploitation, corruption, and needless human suffering.

I can and do work myself to exhaustion.

Some people think I'm too serious.

I have always been interested in social reform.

I value and will defend diversity.

I have a strong need to "make a difference."  

I have a penchant for risk-taking.

I can and do ignore my own needs for the sake of others.

From site for the book:**Mary-Elaine Jacobsen. The Gifted Adult

More   Self-tests : giftedness    Self-tests: talent / personality

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"Synthesis on Giftedness in Women" by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.,
director of the Gifted Development Center and the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development;
author of Counseling the Gifted and Talented

Unique perception and awarenessGlobal view - respect for all human beings

A greater capacity for empathy (concern for others, especially children; sensitivity and warmth)

Intense moral commitment (seeing injustice and doing something about it; willingness to
stand up for one's beliefs)

Questioning, searching for truthIntuitiveness; insightfulness   

Creativity - the gifted woman as artist

Multipotentiality (having capabilities in many areas and domains of talent)

Ability to juggle many things at once

Similar to most women in concerns, but there is a qualitative difference in degree of commitment

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Additional characteristics for both genders
   - described by various writers and researchers :

Many gifted individuals:

Hide abilities to "fit in"; deny or disparage their capacities; are unaware of their own giftedness

Move fluidly from one pursuit or interest to the next; are self-critical, labeling themselves as "scattered"

Are impatient about non-gifted people;

Have higher-than-average degrees of androgyny: using both so-called masculine traits (e.g. independence, autonomy, dominance) and feminine traits (warmth, awareness of others' feelings, expressiveness)
-- Also see page : androgyny

May often be seen as threatening to others in positions of authority

Are exceptionally open to psychic & spiritual experiences

Have high excitability, high energy level, emotional reactivity, high arousal of central nervous system

Girls & women may experience pain at being different from "the way women are supposed to be" - and from the hostility and abuse from others; are often socialized toward meeting others' needs as top priority, denying their own needs and interests

May experience deep conflicts between needs for self-actualization and maintaining traditional relationships

May hold divergent values compared to mainstream culture

Strive for moral integrity, social reform & service, inner authenticity

May poorly internalize their achievements; deny and disparage their successes;
May attribute success to outside factors; feel like an impostor

Have a lowered sense of entitlement to make mistakes; identify easily with failure; thinking they are more likely to blame than others

Have relentless curiosity and heightened creative drive; are more process-oriented than product-oriented

Have extraordinarily high standards; have low tolerance for mediocrity and frustration

Are achievement-oriented; interested in non-traditional careers and professions

Have acute awareness of complexities and consequences, and responsivity to expectations of others

Have strong entelechy: (from Greek for "having a goal"): the need for self-determination, for self-actualization

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Gifted children are typically seen not only as creative children but also as future creative and eminent adults.

But many gifted children, especially prodigies, burn out, while others move on to other areas of interest.

Some, while extremely successful, never do anything genuinely creative. Only a very few of the gifted become eminent adult creators.

We cannot assume a link between early giftedness, no matter how extreme, and adult eminence. 

The factors that predict the course of a life are multiple and interacting. Over and above level of ability, important roles are played by personality, motivation, the family environment, opportunity, and chance. 

Ellen Winner, PhD - from her book:
Gifted Children : Myths and Realities

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    Excitabilities and Advanced Development

Psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski talks about the potential value of inner conflict (often identified as neurosis or some other dysfunction) for personal growth - and five independent areas of psychic excitability or functioning: channels of information flow and modes of experiencing that affect how gifted and creative individuals reach higher regions of advanced development:

"The propensity for changing one's internal environment and the ability to influence positively the external environment indicate the capacity of the individual to develop.
Almost as a rule, these factors are related to increased mental excitability, depressions, dissatisfaction with oneself, feelings of inferiority and guilt, states of anxiety, inhibitions, and ambivalences - all symptoms which the psychiatrist tends to label psychoneurotic.

Given a definition of mental health as the development of the personality, we can say that all individuals who present active development in the direction of a higher level of personality (including most psychoneurotic patients) are mentally healthy"

(from book: Kazimierz Dabrowski ,1964, Positive disintegration).

Also see article: Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration - By Elizabeth Mika

Related pages:...*intensity / sensitivity** Dabrowski***mental health
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   The concept of asynchronous development:

[from Univ. of Calgary newsletter "The Paper", Fall 1996:]  "...a psychological definition of giftedness in Martha Morelock's (1992) article: "Giftedness: The View from Within." 

The following definition has become central to the philosophy of our journal: Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.

This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. (The Columbus Group, 1991)

"This means that gifted children develop in an uneven manner, that they are more complex and intense than their agemates, that they feel out-of-sync with age peers and "age appropriate curriculum," that the internal and external discrepancies increase with IQ, and that these differences make them extremely vulnerable.

Their greatest need is each other in an environment in which it is safe to be different. IQ tests may not predict who will become famous, but they do give at least a minimal estimate of the degree of the child's asynchrony, and, therefore, vulnerability.

"Lately, the term "asynchrony" has taken on another meaning, in Howard Gardner's new book, Creating Minds - Gardner (1993) uses it to describe tensions generated by an imperfect fit between the accomplished adult and his domain or the field judging the quality of the individual's work, or in the individual's development in different domains.

He hypothesizes that too little or too much asynchrony will not be fruitful to creativity. Gardner's use of the term once again removes it from the psychology of inner experience, and we are left looking only at the externals of achievement."

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A note on labeling and the concept of asynchronous development -
from a counselor at the Gifted Development Center
[from message posted on The SENG listserv]

The question may not be "does asynchrony exist?" but rather, "how does this information (and other developmental labeling) get used?" Is it for the benefit of the child or does it reduce a child? This is a very important point indeed... if we label a child as being high in one area and low in another, we run the risk of not seeing that child as a whole, but only as a series of "quantifiable
parts" or percentiles...

And yet, I know that many of my colleagues and I got into the field of the social and emotional needs of gifted children because we feel so *passionately* about the need to see each of these children as a whole person, and *not* as just their academic potential or some profile of their strengthsand relative weaknesses.

Assessing a child's abilities is useful for helping that child's parents understand how best to help that child enjoy and receive full benefit from their education. But it is obviously wrong to label a child as being nothing more than a set of test scores. Believing in the concept of asynchrony does not imply a love of labeling.

It implies a sensitivity to the developmentally different child (whether advanced or delayed), who is both different from his or her age peers and also developing at varying rates within.

   Annette Revel Sheely [of the Gifted Development Center]

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Sources include books, Mensa Research Journal, and the Advanced Development Journal.

Main site: Talent Development Resources

More articles, sites, books:  giftedness : resources..........articles : giftedness

 personal qualities............personal qualities : page 2............androgyny..

intensity / sensitivity.........Dabrowski / advanced development.......

impostor feelings.......introversion / shyness...........

learning differences  ADHD; dyslexia, non-visual spatial learning etc

perfectionism..........perfectionism : page 2...

questions / responses :
career choices; emotional aspects of being gifted etc.

Suggested gifted film/TV characters on page: videos

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