Carol Dweck on developing creative talent

Carol S. Dweck, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She writes in an issue of the Duke Gifted Letter about attitudes toward giftedness and developing creative talent:

*  Some people are born gifted, and others are not.

* You can tell who will be gifted from early on.

* Gifted children should be labeled and praised for their brains and talent.

All of these statements are accepted by many as true. However, as evidence has accumulated over the past decade, another view has been gaining credence that portrays giftedness as a more dynamic quality that can grow or stagnate.

With this outlook comes a shift in emphasis from how to identify gifted children to how to cultivate giftedness and talent—a change in focus from measurement psychology to cognitive and motivational psychology.

Gifted People Are Made, Not Just Born

Genius and great, creative contributions are the product of passion, learning, and persistence.

More researchers are regarding motivation as the key ingredient for exceptional achievement.

Their work suggests that creative genius itself grows out of the ability to sustain intense commitment for extended lengths of time in the face of obstacles.

They tell us that many well-known geniuses—Edison, Darwin, even Einstein—were ordinary bright children who became obsessed with something and because of that obsession ended up making enormous contributions.


The word gifted can have a fixed-mindset feel.

It suggests that intelligence or talent is simply bestowed upon children through no effort of their own and, by extension that it should flourish through no effort of their own.

I am seeing a record number of students who fear that if they work hard, make mistakes, or have deficiencies they will no longer be seen as gifted.

Parents and educators need to work to send a different message: that intelligence and talent are developed through passion, learning, and persistence—and that they value those traits, not “natural,” effortless perfection.

They must convey that challenges are fun, effort is satisfying, mistakes are welcome clues, and even failures can put people on the path to success.

When they do, they will shift the meaning of gifted from something children just have to something they have the opportunity and the privilege to develop.

Excerpted from Giftedness: A Motivational Perspective, by Carol Dweck, PhD

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In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck considers two basic attitudes and paradigms about human ability and development.

Read excerpts in post: Carol Dweck on the growth mindset


Raising Gifted Kids: Carol S. Dweck on the Impact of Mind-set

Motivating Genius: Adult Genius, Unexceptional Kid


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