Asked by: Bill Steiner, USA
Prodigies are defined by their childhood ability to perform at adult professional levels in a particular area. Some experts argue that prodigies benefit from years of intense, early practice, usually encouraged by ambitious parents.
Others highlight prodigies’ innate abilities: for example, a 2014 study assessed 18 child prodigies and found that what they all had in common was a heightened attention to detail and exceptional working memory (the ability to store and process information over short time periods).
Prodigiousness seems to arise from a combination of this cognitive profile with what psychologist Ellen Winner describes as a “rage to master” their craft.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.