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So even as we kind of hate child prodigies, we remain in awe of their gifts. For a long time, scientists had little insight into the nature of these talents. But over the past several years psychologist Joanne Ruthsatz has assembled what she calls the “largest sample” of prodigies on record—a list more than 30 deep and growing—and what she’s found points to one factor that’s consistently off the charts among prodigies regardless of their area of focus: working memory.

“They all have exceptional memories,” Ruthsatz tells Co.Design. “I think it’s the piece that allows for their abilities.

The One Extraordinary Skill All Prodigies Share