+
upworthy
Family

A study has been following 'gifted' kids for 45 years. Here's what we've learned.

Some of what we used to think about gifted kids turned out to be wrong.

A study has been following 'gifted' kids for 45 years. Here's what we've learned.


What can we learn from letting seventh graders take the SAT?

In the 1960s, psychologist Julian Stanley realized that if you took the best-testing seventh graders from around the country and gave them standard college entry exams, those kids would score, on average, about as well as the typical college-bound high school senior.

However, the seventh graders who scored as well or better than high schoolers, Stanley found, had off-the-charts aptitude in quantitative, logical, and spatial reasoning.


In other words, they were gifted.

In the 1970s, Stanley and his team launched a full-scale study, identifying many of America's gifted kids and tracking them throughout their lives.

The study, called the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth never ended and is now nearly 45 years in the making. It has followed countless kids from middle school into their careers as some of America's top politicians, scientists, CEOs, engineers, and military leaders.

Stanley passed away in the mid-2000s, but psychologist David Lubinski helped bring the study to Vanderbilt University in the 1990s, where he now co-directs it with Camilla P. Benhow.

It's not a stretch to call this the biggest and most in-depth study on intellectual "precociousness." The results of the study thus far are equal parts fascinating and genuinely surprising — a deeply insightful look into the minds and lives of brilliant children.

1. Some of what we used to think about gifted kids turned out to be wrong.

Ever heard the saying "early to ripe, early to rot"? It basically means doing "too much" to foster a kid's special talents and abilities at too young an age could actually cause harm in the long term.

That's not even remotely true, at least not according to Lubinski.

That might be an outdated example. But Lubinksi says there are plenty of other misconceptions still alive today, like the idea that gifted kids are so smart that they'll "find a way" to excel even if those smarts aren't nurtured and developed.

Not so fast. "They're kids," he explains. "They need guidance. We all need guidance."

2. Intelligence is not the same as passion.

Quick, what's the "smartest" career you can think of. Doctor? Scientist?

While you do have to be pretty brilliant to work in medicine or science, those are far from the only career paths gifted kids choose later in life.

"Quantitatively, gifted people vary widely in their passions," Lubinski says. Many of the students in the study did end up pursuing medicine, but others went into fields like economics or engineering. Others still were more gifted in areas like logical or verbal reasoning, making them excellent lawyers and writers.

"There are all kinds of ways to express intellectual talent," Lubinski explains.

When it comes to doing what's best for a gifted student, it's just as important for parents and educators to know what the student is passionate about rather than pigeonholing them in traditionally "smart" fields and registering them in a bunch of STEM courses.

3. Hard work definitely still matters.

Measuring a student's aptitude, their natural abilities, is only one part of the equation when it comes to determining how successful they'll be in life. Aptitude scores can identify a particularly strong natural skill set but tell us very little about how hard that person might work to excel in that field.

Effort, Lubinski says, is a critical factor in determining how far someone's going to go in life. "If you look at exceptional performers in politics, science, music, and literature, they're working many, many hours," he says.

(And for the record, there are a lot more important things in life than just career achievement, like family, friends, and overall happiness.)

4. Regardless of aptitude, every kid deserves to be treated as though they were gifted.

The study's focus is specifically on kids within a certain range of intellectual ability, but Lubinski is careful to note that many of its findings can and should be applied to all students.

For example, the kids in the study who were given an opportunity to take more challenging courses that aligned with their skills and interests ultimately went on to accomplish more than the students who were not afforded the same opportunity.

"You have to find out where your child's development is, how fast they learn, what are their strengths and relative weaknesses and tailor the curriculum accordingly," Lubinski says. "It's what you would want for all kids."

It may sound a bit like a pipe dream, but it's a great starting point for how we should be thinking about the future of education in America.

If you'd like to learn more about the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, check out this short film on the project created by Vanderbilt University:

Quick Learners; High Achievers: Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth

This article originally appeared on 09.22.17

"Freddie Mercury" by kentarotakizawa is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Fans are thrilled to hear Freddie Mercury's iconic voice once again.

Freddie Mercury had a voice and a stage presence unlike any other in rock music history. His unique talents helped propel the band Queen to the top of music charts and created a loyal fan base around the world.

Sadly, the world lost that voice when Mercury died of AIDS at age 45. For decades, most of us have assumed we'd heard all the music we were going to hear from him.

However, according to Yahoo! Entertainment, remaining Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May announced this summer that they had found a never-released song they'd recorded with Mercury in 1988 as they were working on the album "The Miracle."

Keep ReadingShow less

Doorbell camera catches boy's rant about mom's chicken

When you're a kid you rarely have a lot of say in what you get to eat for dinner. The adult in your house is the one that gets to decide and you have to eat whatever they put on your plate. But one little boy is simply tired of eating chicken and he doesn't care who knows it. Well, he cares if his mom knows.

Lacy Marie uploaded a video from her doorbell camera to TikTok her son. The little boy is caught on camera taking the trash out venting about always having to eat chicken. He rants all the way to the trash can, being sure to get it out of his system before he makes it back into the house.

"Chicken. No more chicken. Tell me you like, we have chicken every day. Eat this, eat that, eat more chicken, keep eating it," the 10-year-old complains. "It's healthy for you. Like, we get it. We have chicken every day."

Keep ReadingShow less


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Arizona election official posts perfect response to woman who received two mail-in ballots

These kinds of clear, concise explanations are the best way to battle misinformation about how votes actually get counted.

A woman received two ballots in the mail. Is that a problem?

Since having elected leaders instead of kings is a hallmark of our democratic system, Americans share a common concern for election integrity. But for some, that concern has grown into full-blown conspiracy theories and misinformation about election fraud since before Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Despite dozens of lawsuits either being dismissed as groundless or lost on their merit in court, people still try to claim that the 2020 election was rife with fraud.

One of the primary targets of those fraud claims is mail-in ballots. People haven't seemed to wrap their minds around how mail-in ballots can be secure and how people can be prevented from voting twice if they happen to have more than one ballot mailed to them.

Turning Point USA field rep Aubrey Savela shared a photo of two official Arizona ballots with her name on them to X, with the caption, "Maricopa county at its finest… My first time ever voting in a presidential preference election and I received not one but two mail-in ballots.Thank you @stephen_richer."

Keep ReadingShow less

A penguin and the planet SAturn.

Some folks just have a knack for remembering all sorts of random facts. They're the stars at trivia nights, but sometimes, they come off as too much of a know-it-all.

Do you ever wonder why some people seem to be better at recalling random facts than others? Monica Thieu, a multi-time “Jeopardy!” contestant, studied the phenomenon and found that people who are great at trivia and remember random facts could also recall the situation and content when they first learned the fact.

So, someone who is excellent at remembering random facts won’t just remember that Grant is buried in Grant's Tomb. They will also remember that they learned it on a sunny day while on a walking tour of Riverside, New York.

(President Ulysses Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb, which is located in Riverside, New York.)

Keep ReadingShow less
Community

Hotel is giving away 10 all-expense-paid trips to help rebuild Patagonia hiking trail

Post your video entry by March 15 for a chance to do some good while exploring one of the world's most stunning ecosystems.

Las Torres Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park

In the far southern reaches of South America, Patagonia beckons adventurers with its striking landscape. Rugged mountain peaks, deep valley vistas, pristine lakes, virgin forests, coastal cliffs and more combine to make this semi-arid land a paradise for nature lovers and photographers alike.

If you've ever seen a photo like this…

hiking trail next to a lake in patagoniaHiking trail at Torres del Paine National Park in PatagoniaLas Torres Patagonia

…and thought, "I have to go see that turquoise water for myself," now's your chance. Las Torres Patagonia is offering an all-expense-paid trip (including airfare) for 10 lucky winners to travel to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and stay at the all-inclusive Las Torres Patagonia hotel for five days.

Keep ReadingShow less