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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

12 - Prodigies and Savants

from Part III - Intelligence and Group Differences


For about a century there has been a modest research effort to explain the nature of prodigies and savants. Savant research emerged out of the medical field and centered on deficit/remediation. Research with prodigies generally consists of case studies by psychologists with an interest in the manifestation and development of extreme talent, sometimes as part of the “gifted child” movement in the United States, more recently as anomalies in developmental psychology.

Research into both phenomena evolved to incorporate new questions, including debates over the role of general versus specific intellectual abilities in talent development. This chapter summarizes and reviews research on prodigies and savants. It also reviews what, to date, has been found about the nature and interplay of general and specific intellectual strengths and weaknesses more generally, offering a possible role for both specific talent and general ability.