Characteristics of Giftedness

Giftedness is generally thought of in terms of having a high IQ (above 130).  But there is so much more involved when you look inside a gifted person.  This list gives a unique view of the inner working of the gifted and brings to light the essence of so much of our hard-to-capture identity.


Some signs of giftedness in children and adults compiled by Annemarie Roeper, Ed.D. and Betty Maxwell, Ph.D.

  • Sensitivity
  • Remembering insults forever
  • Doing three things at once
  • Doing the outwardly foolish thing, taking up lost causes
  • Psychic
  • Interest in life and death
  • Driven to comprehend, complexity of understanding
  • Wanting to know the reasons and origins of things
  • Asks, “What is my purpose?”
  • Naive
  • Recognition of falsity, no “trophy friends”
  • Complexifying solutions
  • Finding non-conventional solutions, originality
  • Not motivated by extrinsic awards, discomfort with praise
  • Passionate
  • Undeterred by conventional expectations
  • Self taught, non-sequential learning
  • Need for precision
  • Recognition of unfairness, strong sense of justice
  • Making intuitive leaps, making logical projections
  • Noticing what no one else does
  • Manipulation and bargaining
  • Make and follow their own plans, less teachable
  • Devise practical experiments to see “What if?”
  • Saying, “Actually”
  • Large vocabulary, love of big words
  • Delayed in toilet training, difficulty in separating from mom
  • Early sense of responsibility
  • Not wanting to grow up and face the world
  • Less physical risk-taking
  • Zipping through Piagetian stages
  • Friends of both genders, later sexual interests
  • Abstract thinkers before having the emotional ability to handle it
  • Symbolic thinkers
  • Can animate their fears, powerful emotional imagination

So, what do you think?

Join the forum discussion on this post
Be Sociable, Share!

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Gifted for Life: Characteristics of Giftedness --

  • Hope

    Of course everybody wants to relate to this list. I bet if you did a study where you made a list of good traits and said it was a horoscope for every persons month, almost everyone would say that describes themself.

    • Sonia Dabboussi

      I agree in the sense that all people, or almost all people, want to see the good in themselves and want to know there’s something special about them.

      At the same time, this is a long list with quite a few oddball kinds of characteristics which might make the people who don’t really fit think twice. Who’s going to be in a hurry to admit that they’re naive, or that they do the ‘outwardly foolish thing’, or maybe took a little too long in the toilet training stage?

      Not all of these things apply to everyone who’s gifted, but if someone says they have all of the ‘good’ traits and none of the ‘bad, it might make you wonder…

      • mindy

        I have a son, 8, who is gifted and I stumbled on this site when trying to find helpful information for him about why he feels like he’s so different from everyone else. This list was incredibly helpful. Of course I tend to agree that most people will find themselves in this list, it helped him to see sensitivity was “normal”. Plus there are a few personality ticks we always thought were just him, but are listed here! For instance, from the time he learned to speak he said “Actually” constantly in conversation. So funny to see it as a characteristic!

  • Pingback: Gifted Adults, Intense Emotions, Depression and Anger()

  • Elizabeth Braun

    Most of these describe me – including being naive! I’ll admit that! I’m forever expecting folk to do the right thing and am shocked if someone is shown to have an ‘impure’ motive. Lack of confidence makes me less ‘unteachable’ etc than many gifted people (but I understand that lack of self belief is another common gifted trait). Sigh. And yup, I’m nearly 40 and I still don’t want to grow up!!=)

  • gifted and unemployed

    I think the traits are pretty accurate and I feel pretty related to many of those traits. However I would post an open set of questions.. Gifted people are not trainable and have problems with authorities, that does not make gifted people in some way undesirable in work? Moreover that does not make working undesirable for the gifted? and If working has a lot to do with deal with the enviroment definition of intelligence by Weshler what would be the relationship between giftedness and intelligence in this sample?

    • giftedforlife

       The gifted certainly are trainable in that they have a deep desire to learn.  In the workplace, the best fit for a gifted person is somewhere where they have variety, room to grow and explore, and an opportunity to influence the direction in which they go.  This obviously isn’t going to be like every working environment, but those places are out there.  And if you have a gifted person working for you with these conditions, chances are good you’ll get some incredible results.

      • Richard

        Trainable and desire to learn are not terms compatible with most highly intellectually gifted persons. We explore possibilities!

  • Robin Retzler

    My 2 sons and I are both gifted.  Because of this, I have educated my husband about being gifted as he is merely above average (ha, ha).  He now thinks of being gifted as a curse – and unfortunately, I think I mostly have to agree with him.  There is so much information about the characteristics of being gifted, and education options, etc, but there is not much information about the practical aspects of how one deals with being gifted on a day to day basis.  And by that I mean the things that make us hard to employ, difficult to be friends with, etc.  It seems the only option is to seek therapy which is costly (either that or win the lottery and found a town in which only the gifted can live there!)

    • giftedforlife

       Understanding what giftedness means and the characteristics that go along with it is the first step, but of course what to do with all of it is next.  Connecting with other gifted adults and sharing experiences helps because you can find out what others have done that has worked for them.  And you can have somewhere where you can just ‘be yourself’ which helps to alleviate some of the adaptive stressors you may experience in other areas of your life.  Both of these are a plus.

  • noyb

    Being gifted is a curse for the most part, cuz you can never fit in and just go through life not dwelling over how screwed up this world is and being over sensitive with feelings and stuff… it sucks, and I don’t want it. I feel completely alone and miserable all the time and having to correct ppl’s mistakes all the time and seeing ppl do really dumb things and refusing to take your advice on anything you say is ridiculously frustrating and makes me constantly annoyed with everything and everyone around me. I have been depressed for many years, and I’ve had 2 counselors refuse to give me any long term help because they probably disbelieve that I am depressed. I have a major sleeping disorder because of that depression, and because of that, I have a really hard time falling asleep at night. I just recently went to a sleep clinic and was told that I had no REM sleep at all and only fell asleep for less than 2 hours worth. Now, I’m no doctor, but if all that connects to being “gifted”, then I don’t want it at all. I don’t want to be generally smarter than others and obsess over a lot of things. I just want a normal life.

    Those of you who want to be apart of that list are morons and aren’t gifted at all.

    • giftedforlife

      I can understand why you feel like being gifted is a curse. For many it feels that way, especially those who haven’t been able to connect with others who think and feel the way they do.
      There really isn’t any way to become ‘ungifted’, other that to try to shut off your intensities and complexities, which then of course creates other kinds of problems. The best way to handle all of this is to keep doing more of what works for you and do less of what doesn’t. That may sound kind of vague, but it can work out better in the end.
      I’d love to talk more about this with you. You can post something in the forum here if you’d like at, or join our Facebook group where there are many others who have experienced events similar to yours and are finding ways to improve their lives. That group is called On the Edge: Gifted Adults Redefining Possible an is at I hope we can talk more there.

    • Londiwe Mpoko

      This is how I have felt my whole life .I didn’t want to be `special` as I’ve been called before.I just wanted to be normal but now that I have found this forum I am inclined to believe that this is a positive thing for me.God knows that I can not change it anyway.I have tried to ,believe me.It just followed me everywhere I went.I might as well embrace it.Being `gifted` sounds far much better than being `weird` or special for that matter.I have had years of therapy on and off and I have come to the realization that we can create our own reality if we wanted to.I hope things get better for you.

  • Knight of Virtue

    It’s not gifted so much that are left out of society, but just about anyone who doesn’t fit in the “norm”, with the more extremes having it worse. Unfortunately, being gifted means we understand the significance of this at a deeper and more emotionally painful level then others. Giftedness only seems like a curse because society makes it that way. Don’t give in to the pressure! We have to much to bring to the world, even if they don’t understand the significance of what we do for them. I also have suffered much, both from being different (gifted) and compounded by ignorance of how big the difference is in some ways (though I’d say in many cases it’s more a bunch of small differences added together).

    Sadly, there pretty much always be people in your life telling you how worthless of a human being you are and how you don’t belong. Don’t listen to this, if you view yourself in a negative manner, you’ll become what you fear you are! Instead think positive of yourself, sure you’ll make mistakes, we all do, but you are still valuable and wonderful in your own right.

    As part of my faith I  know the creator (or at least a small portion of him, hard to completely understand an infinite being with a finite mind). And my God does not make mistakes, including you, and no matter what others or yourself think of what you are, he still treasures you and not only values you, but actively seeks you out (he even went so far as to give his life for you! he finds you valuable enough to sacrifice himself). Now, you may have differing views, and perhaps are even atheist or are in a spiritual crisis where you wonder why a wonderful God would put you through such pain. But even if that’s the case, know that there are others out there who value you and believe you have high value even if they have never known you! (if you’re interested in more then feel free to PM me on the forums and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can).

    I’d also encourage you to question your views on things like human perfection, or what you feel you should be. If you don’t like yourself, why? What don’t you like about yourself? Are the things you don’t like from yourself, or from others? I find that a lot of things that I beat myself up about aren’t things I personally dislike about myself, but rather things that others and society says aren’t favorable.  So think positive, find who you are, and like it! Just because others say something like a lack of focus in your passions is bad, doesn’t mean it is, rather it’s an awesome and important part of who you are! The funny thing about self, is that only you can truly know who you are, yet everyone else seems to think it’s there job to tell you who that is.

    Know that you’re an awesome person, even if you haven’t found it out yet! Once you realize internally how amazing you truly are (not in a competitive fashion, as everyone is awesome in different ways, and we’re designed for those different types of awesome to be put together for something even greater) then it will start to show outside. It sounds cliche, but believe in yourself!

    • john

      I express great contempt for people such as yourself, who make themselves out to be martyrs and impose a pretentious demeanor.  A very important aspect to being gifted is constantly analyzing yourself, coupled with a fortuitous strive  for perfection.  While you may believe your gifted, stating your beliefs explicitly as truth veers far from fact.  Realizing ones own giftedness is an understanding, not an action.

      • Knight of Virtue

         I fail to see how stating the fact that people on the ends of extremes tend to suffer due to being misunderstood and people’s general fear of anything different, is saying that I’m a matyr, I’d also consider myself much more fortunate than many others.

        Being gifted isn’t about striving for perfection, it’s about striving to always be better, sky’s the limit. I also must ask you, what is perfection? What you basing this “perfection” on? Is it what others say it is? Is it what the media portrays? Is it determined by some outside factor? Have you made your own view of what it is? What did you use to come up with this view? Do you believe yourself knowledgeable enough to truly know what perfection is? (I know I’m sure not, and likely never will be as it is something hard to pin down, assuming it even exist.) etc. I’m not saying to not strive to be better, I’m saying to question what that is, and to be happy with who you are while seeking to achieve more.

        Note that understanding itself is an action, even if it’s often not one you always have to actively strive for. That said one cannot make themselves gifted or not gifted, what’s important is how you deal with it. Gifted people seem more prone to negative thinking and viewpoints, in part because of the scale they understand things and also because of being a smaller and less understood part of society. Positive thinking is more powerful than people usually give it credit for, not only is it more healthy for you, but it is a stronger motivator and allows you to achieve even more, it helps you withstand failure and resist the negativity that others will throw on your project, don’t underestimate it.

  • Kev

    being Gifted is not all that. it actually has many flaws, unless you achieve what you want in life, being Gifted is more of a curse than a gift. 98% of the people annoy me due to their stupidity in things I see and know, which they don’t. also things that are so obvious and simple to me, is complicated for them. which makes alot of misunderstanding because, Its hard to know how stupid people really are. I lived most of my life thinking people knew and saw what i did, and could see things I could, or that they were just as good as me. but boy was I wrong.

    I use tell people things was easy and that they could do it, but they never could, and this would upset people cause it would look like i was showing off and shoving it in their face. when infact to ME it was easy, i was not showing off, i genuinely believed they could do it but just wasnt trying or concentrating enough. It is only now i am 27 I realise how stupid people actually are, and how they are soooooo flawed, it leaves me very very worried about life and the world in general. I doesnt suprise me at all how people make mistakes, and never learn, it is because they are so stupid they cannot understand how to change. and this is infact around 80% of the world.. however the other 18% are bright and may see their flaws… but for me still 98% of the people are still below my logic and understanding, which fulstrates me cause i seem to understand everybody but noone understands me.. I can entertain people if i wanted, but it would bore me to death in doing so, and also noone can entertain me.. the list goes on.. being gifted in the 2% of the world, I am actually in the 1% can be lonely… not cause peopel dont like me or that i dont get along with people, cause i do, i also happen to be very lucky i am gifted with people too, which alot of gifted people happen to fail on….

    the problem is, to sync with these people i have to lower my intelligence so much it bores me. and because i thrive on being honest, challengin mentally. living like this would just be worthless. let alone finding a wife that is going to not get on my nerves… just hope God helps me succeed in my dreams, or ill have one hard life ahead of me.

    physical work is not the hardest, physical pain is not the hardest, it is the emotional and mental struggle and pain gifted people have to live through. thats why you see so many gifted celebrities and famous people self destruct.. it’s so lonely even when you are surrounded by people..

  • Kev

    I also see online so many people claim they are gifted. in all honestly i do not believe so. there is a thing called the dunning kruger effect in psychology. also alot of people are just stuck up and want to believe they are special. being gifted is not something to be proud of, it is something God has given you, because he believes you can do his will and do things to make the world better. I see straight through these people online that think they are gifted and use big words and correct spellings.. like the famous quote put it “if you cannot explain something simply, you don;t know it well enough”

    I actually got bored in school, challenged teachers never liked learning cause i knew they knew less than i did, and at times thought they were even wrong. obviously teachers dont like that, so i didnt do well acedimically, i got into fights, i was a rebel. so you can start to see why being too smart is actually a flaw, as they say, i am too smart for my own good. more often or not, if you are working in a call center doing a normal job, you may be highly intelligent, but not gifted… a gifted individual would not be happy with that. it would have to be creative and challenging, or you would have to be the boss. for all that dont believe in God, i challenge your giftedness also, any gifted person would feel there is a God. God is who gave us our gifts. i am not saying we shouldnt question weather God exists, but my life is like a movie, and like a fairytale and i believe that myself.. all gifted people should have the hightent sensitivity to feel and know this, which 98% of other people cant. if you are a realist, and then most certainly you are not gifted. we gifted people dream

  • John

    Being labelled as “gifted” is not always a dream. It can often be a nightmare. I was seeing all manner of psychiatrists when I was a boy. I am now forty and am still seeing them. Being gifted means you know more about yourself than anyone should yet remaining powerless to do anything to change your plight. I never dated. I’ve never driven a car. Never had any children. For all the accolades and awards I’ve received Im still driven to find the one thing that will bring some sense to it all. Anyone who holds the notion that it would be nice to be “gifted” clearly isn’t. The only silver lining to gifted mess is that I have come to build relationships with others that are and have exchanged a certain slavery to creation for the servanthood of friendship.

  • Catarina

    Where can I meet other gifted people? I’m tired of feeling lonely.

  • Young Money

    I was picked for the Gifted and Talented Program in elementary school, but after high school have had some problems with jobs and such. I did okay in college, but haven’t really made a ton of money in my career either like some of my peers from the GATE program did. Also, I don’t identify or know for sure if I identify with all of the traits listed above. So, I’m wondering, if you are Gifted as a child, does that necessarily mean you will be gifted as an Adult. I know hardwork and many other outliers play a part in a persons growth throughout life. So, I’m wondering if I still qualitfy as a “Gifted” person or if im just smart. I hope I’m gifted…lol. Any insight might help me better understand myself….Thanks.

    • Lil25

      Read up on Debrowskis. That should give you a better idea.

    • Miriam Pia

      It depends on definitions. If you don’t suffer a brain injury then you will stay smart and hopefully a quick learner and insightful person. With the right support you can do more, without it you won’t. To make a different example as an analogy: some people can be ‘the strong guy’ but most of those people never become NFL linebackers or Mr. Universe, but now and then someone really makes the most of that potential.

  • Londiwe Mpoko

    I have always known that there was `something` about me and I have been called `weird`.I have never felt that I belonged anywhere and I have carried this intense pain and sadness in my chest my whole life.Yesterday I discovered the phenomenon of Existential Depression and for some reason today I have discovered giftedness. Astonishing!.All my life I thought that I was weird and abnormal.I felt that I didn’t get life whereas everyone else had got it all worked out.I felt like I was travelling in a parallel universe to everybody else.Its been hell.Finding this information and having taken the test,I am finally at home.I scored 100% and I could have cried with relief to have a name for my feelings.I want to thank you so much for being out there and helping me come to terms with my personality.I cant wait to connect with like people.Finally I can have a `family`.

    • Miriam Pia

      Most people are weird. If you are the smart guy then that’s just how it is. Maybe you or someone else is ‘the strong guy’ or ‘the gorgeous girl’ or ‘the rich kid’ or whatever. It is relevant and to be both appreciated but also kept in perspective. It is not always easy to keep in proper perspective as the ways in which it makes a difference – in my own life, really vary. At times it makes little or no difference but other times a major difference and sometimes I experience genuine confusion about whether or not that was what it was or was it the way I was dressed or something.

      • Richard

        Strong guys, Rich kids and Gorgeous girls are sought after, desired and wanted for their physical attributes, as such basic obvious traits do shine the brightest for the “Norms”. Intellectual giftedness on the other hand is shunned by most and will generally be found on the outside looking in! I think you missed the point.

    • Richard

      Welcome, enjoy!

  • Pingback: More on signs of giftedness… | DEFYING GRAVITY()

  • Markus Van Vorhees

    I must say, reading this is like reading the profile of my own personality; it’s a mirror image of, well… Me!
    Given that I have failed to find purpose in any other areas of my life, my social awkwardness and, as listed fear of praise has caused me to never be very outgoing.
    I do find this to be a minute glimmer of hope of in my life, given the fact that I have ceased to show much, if any effort in most endeavours…

    It is also a comfort to know that there are others out there like me, and that I’m not just the sediment on the gene pool.

  • Duc Minh

    Wow! many traits on this list are similar to mine. I’m intrigued.

  • Mabi

    lol I feel so uncomfortable when people change the situation

  • Seven Rio

    Remembering insults forever? I remember them- but so could an average person. Unless, you mean remembering them and tracking down the person to let them know how wrong they were. I did that with 12 people on my list. It is why I prefer to be alone and do my own thing and just be with my family. It’s much easier to be quiet and lay low.

  • Michael Thoma

    I, being gifted know only too well that long lonely road of life but I got to know the most beautiful young woman at the church I attend and as she was homeschooled by her mom, who also recognized this trait in me, and taken me like almost like another son,and knowing that I am also attracted to her daughter , who is gifted and my theory that the gifted types seem to attract to each other and that we act and think along the same lines, as I would from the male perspective and her from the female perspective and for once I now truly know what the feelings of love are as it seems the right woman has entered my life.