For Kids, Intelligence May Not Be Enough to Predict Success

Could your child be the next Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking?

Sure, your kid needs smarts, but according to a new study released this month by Vanderbilt University, true genius is more than just brains. It includes the ability to recognize patterns and visualize abstract ideas. And genuises also have plenty of curiosity.

Special educational programs and sheer determination are also critical in shaping the minds of child prodigies.

"The talent and commitment necessary to develop as a scientific leader require both personal attributes and learning environments that are truly beyond the norm," said study authors Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski.

The report, released on Dec. 22, draws on research from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, which tracked exceptionally gifted children for more than 50 years. Though the current study began at Johns Hopkins University in 1971, it is now at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development.

Think your kid has what it takes? Researchers first screen children with a series of tests designed to gauge their intellect. Then those in the top 1 percent are tested further to find the cream of the crop -- the next possible Einstein.

Have America's brainiest men and women achieved equal success in their careers?

Yes. The study shows that male and female geniuses generally earned the same number of advanced degrees and high-powered jobs. They differed, though, in their career choices. More men chose careers in the physical sciences, while more women pursued law, medicine and the social sciences.

By their mid-30s, male and female geniuses were equally content with their life choices and levels of success.

Interestingly, Lubinski and Benbow found no "ability threshold" -- a benchmark of mental ability at which environmental factors cease to affect mental growth.

"Not surprisingly, the personal attributes of future science, mathematics, engineering and technology leaders reveal that it takes more than exceptional abilities to develop exceptional scientific expertise," said the researchers.

The current report, composed of data from more than 5,000 study subjects, appears in the Dec. 18 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.