Reverse engineering genius: historiometric studies of superlative talent

Dean Keith Simonton
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2016, 1377 (1): 3-9
Although genius has been defined in the dictionary as requiring an IQ above 140, this definition depends on an arbitrary methodological decision made by Lewis Terman for his longitudinal study of more than 1500 intellectually gifted children, a study that occupies four of the five volumes of Genetic Studies of Genius. Yet, only the second volume, by Catharine Cox, studied bona fide geniuses, by applying historiometric methods to 301 highly eminent creators and leaders. After defining historiometric research, I examine the difference between historical genius and intellectual giftedness with respect to heterogeneous intellects, personality differences, and early development and show that the actual relation between IQ and genius is small and heavily contingent on domain-specific assessment, the operation of traits like persistence and openness to experience, and the impact of diversifying experiences, including both developmental adversity and subclinical psychopathology. Hence, the dictionary definition of "genius" has minimal, if any, justification. If, using historiometric methods, one works backward from recognized geniuses, such as those studied by Cox, one might not obtain the kind of sample that Terman obtained for his longitudinal study. The two methods produce two distinct subgroups of the larger population.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"