STUDY ALERT: Child prodigy: A novel cognitive profile places elevated general intelligence, exceptional working memory and attention to detail at the root of prodigiousness

Child prodigy: A novel cognitive profile places elevated general intelligence, exceptional working memory and attention to detail at the root
of prodigiousness

Joanne Ruthsatz a,⁎, Jourdan B. Urbach b

Child prodigies are unusual for their early and exceptional adoption of what are traditionally thought of as adult abilities. As part of an effort to better understand the underpinnings of these extraordinary individuals’ talent, the researcher examined the cognitive and developmental profiles of eight child prodigies by taking their developmental histories and administering the Stanford-Binet 5th ed. full scale intelligence test and the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ). The collected data reveals a startling picture. While each of the prodigies demonstrated an at least moderately elevated level of intelligence, the prodigies’ full scale IQ scores were not consistently on the extreme end of the spectrum. What was consistently extraordinary, however, was the child prodigies’ working memory scores—a category in which every prodigy tested in the 99th percentile. Additional results suggest a previously unknown connection between child prodigies and autism. The prodigies’ family histories yielded an unlikely number of autistic relatives. And the child prodigies received elevated AQ scores with respect to attention to detail, a trait associated with autism. The prodigies did not, however, display many of the other traits typically associated with autism. This result raises the possibility of a moderated autism that actually enables the prodigies’ extraordinary talent.

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