Today, Nicolas Gauvrit shares his vision of giftedness with us through the Gifted Interview.. Thank you Nicolas! He is a teacher and researcher in cognitive sciences, author of books (among others) on Giftedness. Nicolas currently lives in Paris.
.IF I COULD CHOOSE, WOULD I STILL BE GIFTED?
Yes, I see more advantages than disadvantages.
.WHAT (MY OWN) GIFTEDNESS MEANS TO ME
When I wear my research hat, it’s someone who has an IQ above 130.
When I think about it in a more philosophical way and I don’t need a simple and objective definition, I would say that a gifted person is a person who could revolutionize the intellectual world, who has the capacities.
NB from Gloria: As explained in my Gifted Glossary, 130 is the number used in France (the measures vary from one country to the other).
.IF I HAD TO CHOOSE AN IMAGE OR A KEYWORD THAT SUMS UP WHAT GIFTEDNESS MEANS
.HOW LONG HAVE I KNOWN ABOUT IT?
In 2010, during a conference, I heard the term gifted. Otherwise, it was mentioned several times during my childhood and adolescence.
.WHAT PHASES HAVE I GONE THROUGH SINCE MY DISCOVERY?
A little bit like everyone else, I experienced a feeling of being out of step, but not only because of my Giftedness. When one recognizes oneself in the descriptions – whether it is true or not – one has a feeling of revelation at the time of the discovery of Giftedness. “That was actually the problem, that’s why I had difficulties! Since then, I have understood that my difficulties came from elsewhere. But that can play a role.
So a feeling of revelation that explains who you are. Then, with hindsight, you nuance all that a little and you integrate Giftedness as one of the elements of your identity without making it a central point.
.HOW DO I EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD OF IT?
In general, I nuance everything that is usually said underlying that the difference is not as important and clear-cut as it is said to be between people who are concerned by Giftedness and those who are not.
I’m talking about a continuum. I’m talking about IQ, what kind of intelligence exactly does it measure by explaining that whenever you find differences between a Gifted and non-Gifted, there is a continuum.
There is always a great deal of overlap between Gifted people and others. For example, one can have an extraordinary sense of humor and not be Gifted, even if it is an asset for humor.
In the past, I relied mostly on the IQ definition, as it is the most consensual. Now, I also present other definitions, including Joseph Renzulli’s three-ring model of intelligence: intelligence is not enough, you also need creativity and commitment to the task to achieve great things. When you think about it, talking only about IQ is reductive, even if it is interesting, because it is simple and objective and allows us to have indications of what is going on in Gifted people.
.HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE (TO KNOW IT)
From a personal, inner point of view, apart from this temporary feeling of revelation, which then faded away, it didn’t really change my life.
From a professional point of view, it made me find myself doing research on the subject. In 2010, I attend a conference. The topic interests me. I read books, I see that there is no scientific reference at all. I tell myself that I will do the same book as everyone else with scientific references (for example: “how we know that they are hypersensitive, empathic”). I started reading and I discovered that often we didn’t know, or we knew exactly the opposite (as for example, for anxiety or school failure where it is particularly clear). In many books, we are told that Giftedness is a factor of academic failure in high school. In fact, studies on millions of people show that it is a factor of success, at all levels, in all subjects. I was quite surprised. As a result, my book (“Ordinary Gifted”) turned out to be a “debunking” book, although that was not the objective at the beginning. Then, following the book, I was asked to give conferences, etc.
So it changed my professional life, and then my personal life because that’s how I met my wife in the Gifted community.
.WHAT IT CREATES TO OTHERS WHEN I TALK ABOUT IT
I am always surprised that this is such a sulfurous and controversial subject.
I remember one of my first conferences. Some people in the audience came up to me afterward and said: “Finally someone who says that Giftedness is not a problem, it is not a disorder. Thank you, thank you” and others who phoned the management so that I would not be invited anymore. This topic is very polarized and it really surprises me.
.WHAT IRRITATES ME WITH GIFTEDNESS
The disregard for the truth. It’s in all fields, but since it’s one of the fields that interest me…
For example, another of my research topics is Kolmogorov complexity. On that, there is no controversy. Nobody cares (laughs).
I am interested in Giftedness from a scientific point of view and it annoys me to be in front of people who don’t care about the truth. I don’t speak for political effect, I just try to tell the truth.
.WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE ABOUT GIFTEDNESS
It’s much more of an opportunity than a difficulty. The difficulties that can be encountered, for example, in terms of social integration at school, are not a problem. Gifted students are rather well regarded by others in elementary school (because success is valued), then again in high school (when the baccalaureate is approaching and it is useful to have friends who understand) and in university.
There can be a difficult passage in college, but it passes and it is rather an asset.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY FIND TO BE THE MOST DIFFICULT
There was a time when I felt like people didn’t understand anything I was saying, but that’s not the case anymore. Now I don’t see any difficulties. But maybe it’s also because I’m in a particular environment.
.MY WELLBEING TOOL OR PRACTICE THAT HELPS ME MOST
It’s not typical or specific to Giftedness either, but I tend to “butterfly”, I need it. I change every 5 or 6 years my research theme, I work on Giftedness, working memory, on the perception of chance, and critical thinking.
I have the impression that it helps me to “butterfly”. I need to have something new. Themes that have been well studied for a long time, where you have to look for the little beast, it bores me.
.A MISREPRESENTATION THAT I WANT TO CALL INTO QUESTION
The idea that it’s mostly a problem.
The craziest thing is the idea that it could be a factor in school failure. This is both counterintuitive and contrary to dozens of meta-analyses in every country in the world (millions of people).
Or the idea that Giftedness is a factor of anxiety (we have 14 studies on the subject, each of them involving hundreds of people).
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO GIFTED PEOPLE
Try to make a difference between what is Giftedness and what is not. Do not attribute everything to Giftedness.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CONCERNED
Once again: this continuum thing. It is not because one is not concerned, that one is radically different, that one has another way of thinking. We must not imagine that gifted people are a special species.
For many things, one can easily compensate, be very brilliant and succeed very well with average intelligence, if one has other qualities such as commitment to the task. There are other very important things like creativity, not so much related to IQ. We can also imagine that among the great artists, there are very creative people, but not Gifted in the sense of IQ. Conversely, having a high IQ is not enough.
Intelligence in the sense of IQ should not be THE value of a human being, it is one of the characteristics among others, not more important than creativity, moral value…
.WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO IS WONDERING
I recommend that they consult a psychologist to find out if it is a good idea to be tested and why they want to be tested.
My psychologist colleagues warn against automatic tests. You have to be careful because if the person finds out that they are Gifted, it can completely upset them to the point of making bad decisions, and conversely for some people to learn that they are not Gifted, it can cause them to completely fall apart because they have been holding on to that. For example, a person has a lot of difficulties in life, attributes everything to intelligence, and is told – the typical case – that he or she has an above-average intelligence without having an exceptional intelligence. Everything collapses, the person has no more explanation and it can be dramatic for him or her.
It is a psychologist who can shed light on all this because it is case by case.
.MY PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
A piece of advice that could be given to everyone: don’t give up the idea of having a job that you like, because you spend a lot of time on it.
And what suits some people is not suitable for others. Personally, I need to be free in my job. I chose to do research in the public sector because I am completely free to choose my research topics. This is not the case in the private sector, where the theme is imposed, but the private sector has many advantages, particularly for funding, it is much simpler. Some will be better off in the private sector and others in the public sector, for example.
And I would add that one does not have to feel obliged to embrace an intellectual career because one is capable of it: personal fulfillment is not the same thing as the fulfillment of potential.
.MY OPINION ABOUT THE IQ WAIS TEST
I hear mostly criticism, so I tend to say that the test is very good.
The different indices are not necessarily homogeneous so the total IQ is not necessarily representative of the person.
It is influenced by many things: if you take it in the morning or in the afternoon, if you get along well with the psychologist, if you are depressed or not, etc. Normally, psychologists are supposed to be aware of this.
So these are warnings to be made.
Then, the test is supposed to measure the g-factor. It’s not exactly the g-factor though, it’s an estimate. But to answer the critics, the g-factor is something that is well-defined (one of the best-supported things in psychometrics), and it is one of the possible definitions of intelligence.
In short, the test is useful and satisfactory, but with some warnings.
.IS IT A WASTE NOT TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE GIFTED?
Not necessarily. Often, I don’t think it’s a waste, because it works out well.
On the other hand, it is a waste if you end up being disgusted with the school because everything is too easy and you want to get out of the school system as quickly as possible, and you end up having a job that is far below what you could hope for and desire. It’s a waste.
.WHEN I MEET ANOTHER GIFTED PERSON, DO I RECOGNIZE HIM.HER? BY WHAT?
It is not only between gifted people that we recognize each other. We recognize more or less intelligent people (and we can be wrong).
We base ourselves on indices which are the speed of elocution, the level of language, the memory, etc. There are some fairly obvious things that come into play in IQ.
.WHAT DO GIFTED PEOPLE HAVE IN COMMON?
I am not sure that there is anything that brings them together. There is almost as much diversity among Gifted people as among all other human beings. I don’t think there is a common determinant other than intelligence in the top 2.3%.
.THE LAST THING I LEARNED ON THE SUBJECT (THAT I’D LIKE TO SHARE)
We happen to be analyzing monumental data (250,000 people), a large British database, and we looked at what was special. Surprising things, we realized that there were more homosexual behaviors in Gifted people. This is in line with older studies that suggested this, but this time, given the size of the sample, it’s pretty clear.
.A GIFTED INSPIRATION FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY
I think it’s interesting what’s been going on for a long time in Israel.
In Germany, there are several large study programs on gifted people – adults and children – including enrichment programs. They consist of nourishing Gifted children outside of school while leaving them in the school system. This gives them the opportunity to have favorable social contacts or simply to be better nourished intellectually.
.A WISH FOR THE FUTURE
In France, I would like to see more done at school for gifted students. We are in a system that is sometimes too egalitarian (saying “they are already lucky, we won’t go out of our way for them” on the one hand). On the other hand, there are elite streams, but they are regularly threatened with closure… there could be more continuity in the support.