Persons who are found to have significantly aboveaverage intellectual ability, creative ability, or talent in a particular area, such as music, art, or athletics, are said to be gifted.
Intellectual giftedness is generally indicated by an objectively measured IQ of least 125 or 130, compared to an average IQ score in the range of 85–110. People who are extremely creative are also considered gifted, although their giftedness may be more difficult to measure. Giftedness has been defined as an exceptional degree of a specific talent or academic ability. Giftedness is also defined by general intellectual characteristics such as curiosity, motivation, ability to see relationships that are not immediately obvious, long attention span, and personality traits such as leadership ability, independence, and intuitiveness. In general, gifted people are considered to be creative and innovative thinkers who are able to envision multiple approaches to a problem and to devise innovative and unusual solutions.
In the early days of intelligence testing, it was widely thought that a person's mental abilities were genetically determined and varied little throughout the life span. Research later showed that nurture plays a significant role in giftedness and in cognitive abilities in general. Researchers comparing the behavior of parents of gifted and average children found significant differences in childrearing practices. The parents of gifted children spent more time reading to them, directly engaging with them, and encouraging creative types of play. They were also more involved with their schooling. They were more likely to actively encourage language development and expose their children to cultural resources outside the home, such as art, science, cultural and natural history museums. A positive male role model's involvement in a child's academic progress was found to have a significant impact on both boys and girls, both in their grades and achievement test scores. Within the family, grandparents also played a positive role as mentors, listeners, and role models. A significantly large percentage of high-achieving women report that at least one grandparent played a significant role in childhood. The groundbreaking anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901–1978), for example, named her paternal grandmother as the person with the single greatest influence on her life. Even within a single family, giftedness can be influenced by such environmental factors as birth order, gender, differences in treatment by parents, and other unique aspects of a particular child's experiences.
Standardized intelligence tests, most often the Stanford-Binet or Wechsler tests, almost always play a role in assessing giftedness, even though such tests have been criticized on a variety of grounds. Critics have questioned the correlation of IQ scores with achievement later in life, pointing out that standardized tests do not measure many of the personal qualities that contribute to professional success, such as independence, motivation, persistence, and interpersonal skills. In addition, the creativity and intuition that are hallmarks of giftedness may actually lower scores on tests that ask for a single solution to a problem rather than rewarding the ability to envision multiple solutions. This trait, called divergent thinking by psychologists and educators, often characterizes giftedness.
See also Genius ; Intelligence ; Intelligence quotient (IQ) ; Wechsler Intelligence Scales .
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