“Spectacular Ability in a Sea of Disability”: The Psychology of Savantism with Darold Treffert, M.D.

by Scott Barry Kaufman, September 20, 2015

A leading expert in the psychology of savantism for over 40 years and the scientific advisor for the film Rain Man, Darold Treffert is a wellspring of knowledge on this fascinating yet often misunderstood condition. In this episode we cover the brain anatomy of savantism, its causes and some of the incredible abilities of famous savants like Kim Peek, who memorized thousands of books verbatim (down to the page number)! We feel fortunate to have had this chance to learn so much about such an interesting topic from one of the most well respected researchers in the field. Please enjoy and tell us what you think!

In this episode you will hear about:

  • The disabilities & extraordinary capabilities that characterize savantism
  • How a brain injury/nervous system trauma can give rise to savantism (amazing examples)
  • Some common characteristics of autism that can be conducive to savantism
  • Some of the hyper-conspicuous talents of famous savants (breathtaking!)
  • How some savants are working at the frontiers of our scientific progress/knowledge
  • Savant brain anatomy
  • The memory, improvisation and creativity of the savant
  • The role of environmental factors in the formation of savant abilities.
  • Hyperlexia and the education implications of early readers (as young as 22 months)
  • How we may cultivate these savant like abilities within ourselves
  • Darold’s thoughts looking back on his prodigious career

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Resources: 

“Dr. Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin psychiatrist, has been studying Savant Syndrome for over 40 years. His most recent publication, Islands of Genius: The Bountiful Mind of the Autistic, Acquired and Sudden Savant, was published by Jessica Kingsley, Inc. in April 2010 in both the United States and England. It won gold in the Psychology/Mental Health Category at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and silver in the Psychology Category at the ForeWord 2011 Book of the Year Awards. His earlier book, Extraordinary People: Understanding Savant Syndrome, was the first work to comprehensively summarize what is known about this fascinating condition, originally described a century ago, and to introduce the reader to a number of present day prodigious savants such as Leslie, Alonzo and George. Many persons remember these three remarkable persons from the 1980 60 Minutes program about them. Dr. Treffert was also a consultant to the movie Rain Man, in which Dustin Hoffman portrayed an autistic savant.” -Blurb taken from http://www.daroldtreffert.com/


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