Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Savant Talent.

Reviewer: Liesel Deppe

Reference: Pring, Linda. Savant Talent. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, Volume 47, 2005. 500-503.

Summary: In this paper, Dr. Pring discusses talent and how it relates to people who are savants. In this article she also tries to explain how the talents of savants compare and differ from experts in the same fields. She acknowledges that it is difficult to define talent: is talent innate, or does it develop as a result of practice?

There is a discussion of the various talents of savants, as well as a discussion of intelligence, implicit learning, and the organization of knowledge. The conclusion is that a weak cognitive style – weak coherence-may predispose people to develop certain talents.

Dr. Pring begins by defining what a savant is, before discussing talents associated with savants: music, calendar and numerical calculation, language-related and art.

Cognitive theories of savant syndrome: Is talent merely a manifestation of obsessive practice? In part this may be true, but that does not account for the fact that savants display talent at an early age in the absence of any training.

Rote memory may also play a role in the abilities of a savant: With calendar abilities, this may play a role in that a key date may be learned and then calculations made from that.

As mentioned before, weak coherence may predispose some savants to develop astonishing abilities, in that it may also be an adaptive strategy.

Review and personal response: This article, although short, seems to invite the reader to find out more about the talents of savants. It also made me wonder how many brilliant people there are, who might be borderline savants, or suffer from autistic spectrum disorder. As Dr. Pring states: “Although weak coherence has been linked to thinking
style in physicists and engineers, as well as artists, the experimental evidence has generally been limited to comparing autistic individuals with and without talents…”

This article certainly made me think about “what is normal?” and “what really is talent?”

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