Early Signs of Extraordinary Abilities Predict Success


Kell and colleagues (2013) published a longitudinal study on highly gifted individuals. The authors wanted to examine whether the talents of these individuals predicted their future success such as work and study accomplishments.

Longitudinal studies on this topic have rarely been conducted so this study provides useful insights. They assessed 320 mathematically and verbally gifted participants, before the age of 13, with a scholastic assessment test that is normally used for college students.

Their extraordinary reasoning abilities put them in top 1 among 10,000 individuals, and they were referred to not only as super smart, but as “scary smart”. These individuals would have to maintain their extraordinary abilities, over multiple decades, to be included in the study.

The aim of the above-mentioned study is to provide insights of how to identify and develop human talents in order to maintain the high standards of technique, science and innovations, and consequently, improve the well-being and lives of humans through medical and scientific discoveries etc. At the time of the first assessment, the students were said to have promising futures.

At later assessments, many individuals, who were identified as having profound mathematical and verbal reasoning skills at the age of 13, developed into successful individuals in their different working domains. Typically, students chose the learning and work environments that were linked to the strengths of their abilities (mathematical v. verbal domains).

Evidence of intellectual differences among the most gifted have been established in this study as well as throughout the research history. This means that a few of the highly gifted will actually accomplish many times more (output measures) than the average gifted person. Interestingly, the study also found differences among mathematically and verbally gifted individuals.

Those who excelled in mathematics tended to seek inorganic fields, i.e. they were interested in objects, whereas those who excelled verbally tended to seek organic fields, i.e. they were interested in people. This tendency was true for learning and work domains as well.

An early identification of highly gifted individuals raises the possibility of allocating these to a better, more specific learning environment that facilitates their extraordinary abilities.

For example, the use of an abstract and symbolic learning environment at a cognitive level that is adapted to the gifted individuals is thought to improve their academic motivations, and as a result, increase the likelihood of future accomplishments such as innovative and creative products due to their vast reasoning skills that may be of use to many people.

The allocation may also serve as a way of improving their careers, and many are thought to hold leadership roles that also might benefit entire organisations.

Image: Arianne