Confronting Gifted Stereotypes

Stereotypes about gifted individuals are often based on long ago proposed hypotheses. The ‘disharmony hypothesis’ – that they lack non-cognitive abilities – is one such instance. The ‘disharmony hypothesis’ is a broad generalization which negatively portrays the gifted as socially and emotionally disabled. Ascribed to all gifted children, this hypothesis pre-supposes disruptive behaviors, absentmindedness, and arrogance. A 2016 study (Baudson & Preckel, 2013 & 2016) in Germany found it a prevalent stereotype among pre-service/in-service teachers.

When confronted with negative stereotypes, GT students may respond by trying to avoid or deny their gifted identification. Negative expectations on the part of adults can cause some students to react by fulfilling those expectations (Jussim & Harbor, 2016). Negative gender stereotypes (i.e., girls aren’t good at math/science) can impair Gt students reaching their full potential by trying to ‘fit in’.

Stereotypes based on gifted identification and gender may affect how teachers view and/or interact with female students. When negative stereotypes are considered in identifying gifted students (such as behaviors), female gifted students may be overlooked (Preckel et al, 2015). Recent studies (Lubinski, Benbow, & Kell, 2014) actually show that female gifted students were often viewed more favorably in school than their male counterparts.

Stereotypes can affect a teacher’s expectations of what they believe a student can do or how they should behave; i.e., expecting quirky behavior. In some instances, this may lead to students adapting to these stereotypes. Decisions about who is identifies for gifted programs and the scope of those programs may be guided by stereotypes about GT students. This may result in limiting opportunities for these students. Stereotypes confirming a teacher’s personal bias may influence how teachers respond to students identified as gifted leading to negative interactions.

What can be done to change teachers’ negative stereotypes about GT students? Specific information should be shared with pre-service teachers at the undergraduate level regarding research-based evidence about GT students. Professional development in two areas is essential when attempting to change negative stereotypes: 1) increased knowledge about giftedness and 2) understanding about the consequences of those stereotypes. An important aspect of countering negative stereotypes is frequent contact with gifted students over time; throughout a teacher’s career.

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 1AM GMT  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.

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:


The Unique Psychological Needs of Gifted and Talented Students | Dr. Gail Post

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Common Myths about Gifted Students (pdf)

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Teachers-in-training perceptions of gifted children’s characteristics and teacher-child interactions: An experimental study

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

Do stereotypes strike twice? Giftedness and gender stereotypes in pre-service teachers’ beliefs about student characteristics in Australia

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6 Myths and Misconceptions About Gifted Children

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The Mad Genius Stereotype: Still Alive and Well

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Bullying and the Gifted: Welcome Back to School?

The Social, Cultural, and Political Aspects of Intelligence

One of the Greatest Barriers to Gifted Education | Dr. Gail Post

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

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