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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

A Science Odyssey: How The Makers Of “Cosmos” Reinvented A TV Classic
“One of the crimes of sequels is thinking that making it bigger means better. Here, Cosmos is bigger, because we know more about what’s happened in last 14 billion years and here’s a venue in which to place real phenomena. It’s bigger, because the universe is bigger and we can tell that story.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson
More> Co.Create

A Science Odyssey: How The Makers Of “Cosmos” Reinvented A TV Classic

“One of the crimes of sequels is thinking that making it bigger means better. Here, Cosmos is bigger, because we know more about what’s happened in last 14 billion years and here’s a venue in which to place real phenomena. It’s bigger, because the universe is bigger and we can tell that story.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

More> Co.Create

  • "…it snaps a photo of the fridge’s contents whenever you open the door, allowing you to check what food you already have before you stop off at the store on your way home from work.”

  • Your SmartThings hub could detect that you’ve woken up, either through a motion sensor outside your bedroom or a biometric wristband like the Jawbone Up, and turn on the lights in your kitchen and activate the outlet to which your coffee pot is connected, starting the coffee brewing if you had the foresight to put the grinds in the night before. When you enter the kitchen, motion sensors could trigger a Sonos speaker to give you a weather report and play the news. When you leave for work, the home senses that you are gone and shuts everything down.”

2014: The year companies try to make the kitchen the smartest room in the house

1) Your mind-set makes you smarter: Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist, has identified two mind-sets that shape, well, our minds. There’s the fixed mind-set, in which you think your thinking abilities can’t change. Then there’s the growth mind-set, in which your thinking abilities can be developed.

"These beliefs matter," Paul observes, "because they influence how we think about our own abilities, how we perceive the world around us, and how we act when faced with a challenge or with adversity."

The question, then, is how to own our development—which is a matter of deliberate practice.

2) Your concentration makes you smarter: If we consider intelligence to be our ability to solve complex tasks, then we need to appreciate how to deal with complexity—namely, with sustained focus, since that’s the only way we can load difficult problems into our heads.

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