Genius are born or made? become or manifest?

Albert Einstein

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There is long-standing debate in psychology regrading whether ability is inborn or a result of environmental interactions? Whether it is fixed and constant over time or malleable and subject to interventions.

We have also looked at research by Dweck et al that say that no matter whether  ability be actually fixed or malleable, the belief that it is fixed and malleable has important consequences. We are better off believing that ability is malleable as that enables us to be more persistent in face of obstacle , more creative and engaged while solving problems and enables us to to tackle hard problem as we are in a learning mindset and not in a  proving ourselves/ validating ourselves  mindset.

However the issue still remains as to whether ability is inborn or learned? whether genius is 99 % perspiration and 1 % inspiration or whether one can will oneself or choose to be a genius.

Like the other false dichotomies of psychology this one as to whether genius are born or made is not only false by pitching 2 things against each other where both have a role to play but also misses on the other aspects of being a genius like it being a result of sheer will power or the attitude that one has to see thins in a creative light.

While one group claims that talent/IQ is all that is there is to the genius story, the other camp is equally adamant that the 10,000 hours of practice rule suffices to explain genius.  To some other genius is all about determination or grit; while still others think that optimism, positive framing and attitude and how we deal with ‘lucky’ breaks is all it takes to become a genius.

There are truths to each of the story, but by focusing on one aspect to the exclusion of others they all miss the point. Its only when you see a genius as a combination of these can you really appreciate the complexity and multiple facets of being a genius.


To give us a framework of reference I refer readers to my ABCD model of psychology where A is Affect(genetics) , B is Behaviors (actions and environment)  , D is Desire  (developmental unfolding of motivation)  and C is Cognition ( Conscious decisions and manifestations) .

To see a genius in the light of ABCD model is to see him/her as consisting of talent/IQ (largely genetic and inborn), hard work (need to put the 10,000 hours pf practice to achieve domain mastery), grit (motivation and determination , maybe unconscious , to succeed and overcome obstacles)  and attitude (positive re-framing, optimism and choosing to see things in a creative/positive light) .

Out of these talent /IQ is something that we can least work on while positive and creative attitude and mindset is what we can easily change by changing our conscious thought and thinking styles and patterns alone. Hard work (related to conscientiousness) or grit (related to how intrinsically motivated and determined we are) are also more or less in our control . Thus to me becoming a genius is both a choice, that is within everyone’s reach, and a difficult journey that one has to necessarily undertake (a quest that challenges you to self-actualize)

Genius both become what they want to and manifest what their hidden potentialities are . to state otherwise or to assert that they are either born or made is to continue paying homage to a false dichotomy that has longed outlived its usefulness.


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6 thoughts on “Genius are born or made? become or manifest?

  1. Peter

    Please explain or otherwise seriously edit the title. It isn’t correct English and you don’t need to be a genius to see it.

    1. sandygautam Post author

      Dear Scince editor, that is the difference between being bound by conventions (editing) and creating new forms of usage (creative writing) ; I don’t know what your gripe is with this post, but it should also not need a genius to see that this is a blog post on a science blog and not a journal article in a English language journal. both become and manifst are verbs and so that usage seems fine; genius born or made is a convention used by many other too.

  2. Sagar Upadhyay

    That was a nice write-up. Basically what i have concluded after reading is that it is another nature-nurture discussion. which is really a heavily debated topic. I am also an engineering students and have read psychology from my library books and internet solely due to my interest in it. One thing i would like to add is that “genius” is a very vague term. It depends on how you interpret it. In many cases it is due to the genetics and in others due to the nurture and in the rest its a combination of both.

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  5. Jerry

    I would say its the cause of a lot of hard work. Maybe to us we feel an individual is a genius but we have no idea the headaches they went through to get there. Great article by the way.

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