The Effects of Stereotypes on Gifted Kids

What are the most prevalent stereotypes you hear about gifted children and teens? Unflattering terms such as ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ promote the stereotypes of GT kids as being interested in only academic pursuits and lacking in social skills. Gifted children are often perceived as over-achievers in school, non-athletic, and reticent to associate with age-peers.

How gifted students see themselves in response to stereotypes can affect their willingness to be associated with gifted programs and even the gifted label. Academic performance can be diminished when GT students assume stereotypes which focus on intellectual ability; many longing to simply ‘fit in’ with age-peers.

Stereotypes can affect teacher perception of gifted students. The stereotype of the always high achieving student can put at risk those students identified as GT but for a wide array of circumstances do not achieve at expected levels. Achievement shouldn’t be the sole consideration. Not all GT students are ‘teacher pleasers’ and may exhibit unexpected behaviors. Support professionals should be consulted rather than removing services for these students. Negative stereotypes about gifted students can be mitigated by increasing exposure to gifted education for teachers at the undergraduate level and through high-quality professional development in the field.

What role does ‘stereotype threat’ play in gifted students’ development? Stereotype threat occurs when a student assumes a negative stereotype is true and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Steele & Aronson 1995) Test performance can be significantly influenced by stereotype threat; specifically cultural stereotypes relating to intelligence – the belief that certain racial groups or low-ses students do not do well in particular subjects. At the same time, stereotype threat can be diminished simply by acknowledging that it exists (Johns, Schmader & Martens, 2005) and seeking affirmation of positive personal characteristics (Marx & Roman, 2002).

Movies and television too often portray gifted kids as the butt of jokes, the kid no one wants on their team, or a failure in interpersonal relationships. Gifted kids can develop low self-esteem and find it hard to overcome in real life. Negative stereotypes of gifted children in the media are also consumed be age-peers who may lack understanding and maturity in how to respond positively towards their GT friends.

Parents and advocates can do some things to counter negative stereotypes about GT children. Parents need to discuss stereotypes honestly with their children and make it personal. These kids look up to their parents and can appreciate smart strategies to combat negative stereotypes. Advocates must stand up for gifted children by countering negative stereotypes whenever they are proposed either in a school setting or society at large. Presenting strong positive alternatives is important.

A transcript of this chat can be found at Wakelet.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 2PM NZST/Noon AEST/1 AM UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

 Lisa Conrad About the authorLisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Understanding the Stereotypes against Gifted Students: A look at the Social and Emotional Struggles of Stereotyped Students (pdf)

Nerds and Geeks: Society’s Evolving Stereotypes of Our Students with Gifts and Talents (pdf)

The Mad Genius Stereotype: Still Alive and Well

Age of the Geek: Depictions of Nerds and Geeks in Popular Media (book bn)

5 Ways Bullying Affects Gifted Students

What It Means To Be Gifted

How Stereotypes Affect Gifted Children

Gifted Children—About THAT Stereotype

Debunking Myths and Stereotypes around Gifted Students

7 Facts You Might Not Know About Your Gifted Child

Stereotypes and Beliefs Regarding Intellectually Gifted Students: Perceptions of Pre-Service School Counselors (pdf)

One of the Greatest Barriers to Gifted Education

Bullying and the Gifted: Welcome Back to School?

The Impact of Popular Culture on Gifted Children

How Pop Culture Stereotypes Impact the Self-Concept of Highly Gifted People

The Hubris and Humility Effect and the Domain Masculine Intelligence Type: Exploration of Determinants of Gender Differences in Self-Estimation of Ability (pdf pp. 79 – 84)

The Social, Cultural, and Political Aspects of Intelligence

Pink or Paris? Giftedness in Popular Culture

Giftedness in the Media

Sprite’s Site: Googlebox

Hoagies’ Blog Hop: Gifted in Pop Culture

Sprite’s Site: Labels: Good, Bad, or Simply Wrong

Disrupting Deficit Narratives on Gifted Children of Diverse Backgrounds

Sprite’s Site: Acknowledging Diversity: Gifted is Not a Homogenous Group

Myths and Stereotypes

Sprite’s Site: Columbus Cheetah, Myth Buster

Image courtesy of Pixabay Pixabay License

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

Posted on February 14, 2019, in gifted and talented. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for such an important post. Breaking past stereotypes – especially how we view ourselves, let alone others – is so important.

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