UNGIFTED by Scott Barry Kaufman


Intelligence Redefined
Email this review


Cognitive psychologist Kaufman (Psychology/New York Univ.; co-author: Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of Mind in Sex, Dating and Love, 2013, etc.) describes how he overcame a learning disability and defied expectations despite doing poorly on IQ tests.

At the age of 3—after finally being cured of a series of ear infections that had impeded his hearing—the author was left with a central auditory processing disorder that slowed his understanding of speech. As a result, Kaufman was set on the special education track, where he remained until middle school, when he convinced his parents and teachers that he could succeed in a normal classroom. The author admits that children with learning disabilities need special help to develop alternative learning strategies and work at their own pace, but he is sharply critical of special ed classes that set the bar too low on achievement and use IQ tests to label children. Kaufman makes a convincing case that stereotyping students is not only unsupported by research, but also discriminatory. He emphasizes how lowered expectations of slow learners causes them to develop low self-esteem, diminishes their motivation and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, magnifying the effects of early learning disabilities—which, with proper education, can be overcome. In Kaufman’s case, cello lessons helped him maintain his self-esteem. The author aligns himself with evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker on the need to redefine intelligence more broadly. Coupling his own experience with that of Temple Grandin and Daniel Tammet, who describe how they think using images, he suggests that the development of expertise, associative thinking and pattern recognition are aspects of creative intelligence not revealed by IQ testing.

An inspiring, informative affirmation of human potential combined with an overview of historical developments in standardized tests, cognitive psychology and current research.

Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-465-02554-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2013


NonfictionTHE WOMAN WHO CHANGED HER BRAIN by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
NonfictionTHE AUTISTIC BRAIN by Temple Grandin
by Temple Grandin
NonfictionBORN ON A BLUE DAY by Daniel Tammet
by Daniel Tammet