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What is a Genius Savant?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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A genius savant may be something of a misnomer. Geniuses are usually people with very high intelligence. A savant is usually someone who has extraordinary mental abilities in a particular area. The individual on whom the movie “Rain Man” was based is a savant. Those who are rated geniuses are usually capable of living independently. A savant may not be able to do so.

The genius savant is probably most accurately a “savant.” Not every savant has other developmental issues, but most do. Most people think of an autistic person when they think of a genius savant. They think of a person who does not interact normally with others, who has obsessive-compulsive behaviors that make the person difficult to live with, etc.

A good example of a genius savant is Daniel Tammet of England. Tammet can do lightning-fast mathematical calculations in his head. Another might be able to recall a piece of music perfectly, after hearing it only one time. Most humans are not able to even approach these feats of mental skill.

The genius savant may be born that way or may experience some sort of brain injury that leaves behind this result. Daniel Tammet suffered an epileptic seizure when he was four years old. Afterwards, he found he had an amazing mental ability to do math exercises and count huge numbers. As an example of the handicaps many a genius savant has, Tammet cannot drive or even walk on the beach. His compulsion to count everything precludes him from either activity.

The genius savant is usually left to pursue whatever fields are open to someone with his peculiar abilities, assuming he or she is able to hold down a job. However, if the person is unable to care for himself and live independently, parents will need to make arrangements for this situation early on.

It is not known exactly what causes a person to be a savant, and why some types of brain injury may play a role. Scientists studying the phenomenon say it could be that a brain injury forces one side of the brain to take on the duties of the other half and the savant syndrome is the result. The best treatment available is occupational and life skills therapy, intended to help the person live as independently as possible.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at PublicPeople. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By cafe41 — On Jun 26, 2011

@BrickBack - There are really a lot of misconceptions about prodigious savants. I was reading about savants and many people feel that their talent is natural and they do not have to cultivate it, but that is not true. They need encouragement and practice and their interest in their talent will carry them through.

Many people don’t realize that when they see savant with amazing talents it really took a lot of time to develop that skill level. For example a savant with musical talent did not just wake up one day and play like that.

The difference between a savant and an average person is that the average person could never develop the same level of skill and talent that a savant can no matter how much they practiced.

By BrickBack — On Jun 25, 2011

@Mutsy - I think you are right. I was reading about a young girl that was a savant with autism. She was born blind and was three months premature, but she has extraordinary musical talent. She was featured on several television programs because when she was ten she began studying music at the University of South Carolina. She was able to play over 9,000 musical compositions.

I think that it is great that this little girl had this special gift. I am sure that her parents are really proud of her.

By mutsy — On Jun 24, 2011

@Anon118044 - I think that what you are describing is someone with a genius brain, not a savant. A savant is gifted in one area, but a person with very superior talent and cognitive abilities is gifted and highly intelligent in many areas. A savant has a lot of cognitive deficiencies as well as problems relating to people and are generally more introverted. They would not be considered extroverted like the person you described.

By anon136713 — On Dec 23, 2010

Who would such a person contact?

By anon118044 — On Oct 12, 2010

What about who has savant abilities and more than five to six different areas and is also socially skilled?

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at PublicPeople....
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