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Monday, December 05, 2005


Channelization and The Gifted Brain

In my experience, gifted people are just like everyone else in the way that we channel our thinking, getting stuck in a rut in life. We do it on more levels, in more creative ways, and have very fancy rationalizations for what we're doing, but it's basically the same process with a few new twists added. To the outside world, this is very hard to explain, as people assume that being smarter means that you don't fall into the classic thinking traps they struggle with - you have the ability to rise above it. Not true in the least! The traps increase in complexity along with the brain that creates them.

Yet although the difficulties are the same, this doesn't necessarily mean that gifted people can be helped in the same way as everyone else. I've returned to the puzzle of finding a good metaphor for the way that gifted people experience life, so that I can use it to explain why they need specialized helping professionals. This is the latest:

Imagine two people given the same report to do on analyzing quotes and recommending a supplier for the company. One has just been hired out of university, and one has 20 years experience in the industry and a five-year history with this particular firm. Most of us would probably assume that the 20-year veteran would give the more reliable report - because of their experience with suppliers, their knowledge of the supplier marketplace, their connections with other companies in the industry, and the networks of related professionals they can draw on. Even if the report's conclusion is surprising, it's possible that we would trust the veteran's opinion.

A gifted person has a brain that is like that 20-year veteran, because it can give veteran-caliber answers to brand new problems. Their large knowledge base has been accumulating since the very beginning of awareness. They have been making connections between experiences in order to try and make sense of their world since the beginning. They extrapolate, interpolate, and make logical and intuitive leaps. When you receive communication from that brain, sometimes it's hard to understand where the knowledge you receive came from, because it's such a small piece of the big picture.

So when a gifted person is experiencing difficulties, it requires someone else with the same kind of brain to sort through the huge mass of data and processing that created it. When a 20-year veteran is assigned a newly hired graduate to help solve a problem, the veteran is likely to take anything they say with a large pinch of salt, and privately laugh at the hubris of youth.

OK, coments/edits/ridicule welcome! I appreciate any feedback.

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The difference between the veteran and the gifted is that, through experience the veteran knows which variables and dimensons are required to solve the problem. The gifted hypothesizes and deduces which ones are most relevant and works logically toward a conclusion. The difference between the gifted and everyone else is that the non-gifted narrow the scope of the problem and limit the number of variables they are willing to entertain in order to arrive at a solution. But sometimes, entertaining too many variables and dimensions leads to decision paralysis.
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