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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.
This chapter describes cited contemporary models of intelligence for each of the three levels: psychometric, physiological, and social. The contemporary models that bridge more than one level are examined. The chapter discusses the extended theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence (Gf-Gc theory), the three-stratum theory, the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory, and critique of the psychometric level and its models. According to the dual process (DP) theory intelligent behavior can be explained through a hierarchical structure of directed and spontaneous mental processes. Sternberg notes that his analytic, practical, and creative aspects of intelligence could be applied to Gardner's domains of intelligences. Similarly, neuroimaging studies could examine areas of the brain that are activated before and after the acquisition of expertise. The psychometric, physiological, and social levels and their current models have headed the field of intelligence down three productive paths. Perhaps the time has come for these paths to converge into one.
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