15. Child Prodigies and Adult Genius: A Weak Link

  1. Dean Keith Simonton
  1. Ellen Winner

Published Online: 30 MAY 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9781118367377.ch15

The Wiley Handbook of Genius

The Wiley Handbook of Genius

How to Cite

Winner, E. (2014) Child Prodigies and Adult Genius: A Weak Link, in The Wiley Handbook of Genius (ed D. K. Simonton), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118367377.ch15

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 MAY 2014
  2. Published Print: 3 JUN 2014

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118367407

Online ISBN: 9781118367377



  • gifted;
  • talent;
  • prodigy;
  • IQ;
  • creativity;
  • family;
  • school;
  • Terman;
  • precocity;
  • drive


Gifted children have three atypical characteristics: they are precocious, they learn differently from typical children (marching to their own drummer), and they are intensively motivated to learn (showing a rage to master). High IQ giftedness is sometimes global (with children showing equivalent abilities in both verbal and mathematical areas) but is also often very uneven. Children gifted in the arts are often labeled talented rather than gifted, but whether children are gifted academically or in the arts, they show the same three characteristics. Signs of giftedness emerge very early, in the first two or three years of life, and signs are domain-specific. Despite attempts to account for giftedness in terms of nurture, no evidence allows us to rule out the necessity of an innate component. Families of gifted children have a set of characteristics (e.g., child-centered, provide enriched environments, have high expectations, grant independence) but we cannot conclude that these characteristics cause giftedness to develop. The more extreme the gift, the more difficulty the child has finding others like him/herself, and thus the more likely the child will have social and emotional difficulties. The link between childhood giftedness and adult genius is weak: while many gifted children become excellent in their respective fields, most do not qualify as adult geniuses. The many possible reasons for this are discussed, including the fact that the skill of being a gifted child involves mastery of a domain, while the skill involved in being a genius involves transformation of a domain.