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An Interview with Scott Barry Kaufman

Kaufman Scott Barry

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman will deliver the Keynote, From Evaluation to Inspiration, at the Closing General Session of this year’s Annual Conference of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented on December 5th in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Kaufman is the Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-founder of the popular website The Creativity Post and writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American Minds. He has a doctorate in cognitive psychology from Yale University, a master’s degree in experimental psychology from Cambridge University where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar and B.S. degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr. Kaufman is an outspoken advocate for a new approach to understanding intelligence and the role of imagination. Recently, he accepted our invitation to be interviewed. His insights based on extensive research and inspired by personal experience are changing the conversation surrounding giftedness, creativity and the direction of education.


Dr. Kaufman speaking at the 2014 NAGC Convention

M: What is the difference between creative giftedness and intellectual giftedness?

SBK: To me, intellectual giftedness is a reflection of advanced development of a range of characteristics that facilitate ascertaining what is, including intellectual curiosity, intellectual interests, academic intrinsic motivation, quick and efficient learning of new material, abstract reasoning, visuospatial reasoning, and vocabulary. In contrast, creative giftedness reflects the advanced development of a set of characteristics that facilitate ascertaining what could be, including daydreaming, imagination, prospection, perspective taking, divergent thinking, and nonconformity. Obviously, there is overlap, but not complete overlap.

M:  How does a child’s environment affect their ability to learn?

SBK: The environment is crucial in bringing out optimal learning outcomes in all children. There’s a lot of emerging research showing the importance of student engagement for learning. Environmental factors can influence engagement in the way it increases (or decreases) a sense of belonging, support, high expectations, and inspiration.

M: Could you explain the difference between intelligence testing and intelligent testing?

SBK: The notion of intelligence testing is that we can determine a person’s level of intelligence through a single, decontextualized testing session. I much prefer to think of each testing session as an opportunity for intelligent testing on the part of the examiner to determine the child’s unique learning needs, style of responding, engagement, and creativity. The great intelligence researcher Alan Kaufman has been arguing for intelligent testing since the year I was born!

“Every person on this earth is full of great possibilities that can be realized through imagination, effort, and perseverance.”

M: The concept of inspiration; what role does it play in inspiring student engagement and can it increase cognitive efficiency?

SBK: Inspiration transforms people’s views of their own capabilities, and their place in the world. People who are inspired are typically inspired to realize some new grand vision they have for themselves or others, and inspiration motivates people to approach that vision. In a lot of ways, it’s an organic, longer lasting way of motivating students to want to do well, because inspiration is about as intrinsically motivating at you can get.

M: What advice would you give to educators to help them recognize potential in their students?

SBK: I’d suggest that educators stop thinking of potential as something that is set in stone at any moment in time, but as a moving target constantly changing and highly dependent on engagement. Personally, I much prefer the word “possibility” than “potential”. Every person on this earth is full of great possibilities that can be realized through imagination, effort, and perseverance.

Thank you, Dr. Kaufman, for bringing perspective to these important issues. We look forward to hearing your Keynote at TAGT 2014. Look for our tweets at hashtag #tagt14 on Twitter December 3rd through the 5th.


Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa 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:


Books by Scott Barry Kaufman:

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (Amazon)

The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice (Amazon)

The Psychology of Creative Writing with James C. Kaufman (Amazon)

The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence with Robert J. Sternberg, editors (Amazon)

The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays with Elliott Samuel Paul, editors (Amazon)


The Psychology Podcast (website)

Daydreaming and Mental Contrasting for Goal-Fulfillment with Gabriele Oettingen

The Science of Growing Smarter with Annie Murphy Paul

Talking Mastery and Social Intelligence with Author Robert Greene


The Problem with Standardized Tests

Why the Current Definition of Intelligence Isn’t Smart

A Defense of Daydreaming (Audio 52:05)

The Innovative and Creative Power of ADHD (Audio 9:35)


From Evaluation to Inspiration

Who Is Currently Identified as Gifted in the United States

Creativity and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders Across the Arts and Sciences

The Creative Gifts of ADHD

Confessions of a Late Bloomer

American Education and the IQ Trap


Photo of Scott Barry Kaufman from

Photo of Dr. Scott Kaufman at NAGC courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

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