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Savant Syndrome

  1. Pamela Heaton

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0816

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Heaton, P. 2010. Savant Syndrome. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of London

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The term “idiot-savant” was first used by Down (1998) to describe a group of rare individuals who, despite severe intellectual impairments, demonstrate impressive skills within specific domains. Published accounts of idiot-savants appeared as early as the eighteenth century and provided descriptions of extraordinarily skilled performance in music, art, and mental calculation. The phenomenon of the idiot-savant posed interesting questions about the nature of human intelligence and was frequently invoked in debates about whether humans possess mutiple, independent intelligences or a single global trait (see Nettlebeck & Young, 1996). However, limitations in the extent that intelligence test results inform our understanding of savant skills, along with the rise of cognitive neuropsychology, have motivated a different approach to studying savants, and researchers have increasingly focused on identifying cognitive, perceptual, and memory processes implicated in savant performance (Mottron, Dawson, Soulieres, Hubert & Burack, 2006; Pring, 2005).


  • giftedness;
  • intelligence;
  • mental retardation;
  • savant syndrome