Scott Barry Kaufman -

Scott Barry Kaufman –

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Scott Barry Kaufman

This article dives into the world of Scott Barry Kaufman. We will understand his contribution to cognitive science and humanist psychology, as well as self-transcendence.

Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive scientist and humanistic psychologist who studies intelligence, creativity, and human potential. He is the founder and director of the Center for Human Potential, a coaching and consulting service that helps individuals and organizations achieve their full potential.

He is also a prolific author, podcaster, and popular science writer who has published several books and articles on topics such as Self-actualization, positive psychology, and the science of imagination.

Kaufman is among the top 1% most cited scientists in the world for his groundbreaking research on intelligence, which challenges the traditional view of IQ as a fixed and innate trait. Instead, he proposes a more dynamic and holistic model of intelligence that incorporates multiple cognitive abilities, personal characteristics, and environmental factors.

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Kaufman’s work is inspired by his own personal experience of overcoming learning difficulties and discovering his passion for psychology.

As he said in an interview, “I was always fascinated by what makes people tick, what makes them reach their fullest potential” (Psych Central, 2023). Kaufman’s mission is to help others unlock their own potential and achieve their goals through evidence-based coaching, education, and advocacy.

He is also an advocate for humanistic psychology, a movement that emphasizes the dignity, growth, and freedom of the human person. Kaufman believes that humanistic psychology can offer a more positive and empowering vision of human nature than the dominant paradigms of psychology. He said, “Humanistic psychology is not just a branch of psychology; it’s a way of being in the world” (Kaufman, 2023).

Kaufman has also developed psychological models, including the Theory of Personal Intelligence, and the Dual-Process Theory of Human Intelligence.

Life history

Scott Barry Kaufman was born in 1979 in New Jersey, USA, and had a difficult childhood due to a hearing impairment and a misdiagnosis of a learning disability. He spent most of his elementary school years in special education classes, where he felt frustrated and misunderstood.

Kaufman later discovered his passion for psychology and pursued higher education at Carnegie Mellon University, where he obtained his B.S. in psychology in 2003. He then earned his M. Phil. in experimental psychology from the University of Cambridge in 2005, and his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Yale University in 2009.

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Kaufman has taught at various prestigious institutions, such as Columbia University, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Barnard College. He is currently the founder and director of the Center for Human Potential, a research and coaching centre that helps people achieve their personal and professional goals. He is also the host of the popular podcast The Psychology Podcast, where he interviews leading experts on various topics related to psychology and human nature.

Inspiration and vision

Kaufman’s work is inspired by his personal experience as well as by the humanistic psychology tradition. Kaufman advocates for a holistic and dynamic view of intelligence that goes beyond IQ scores and standardized tests. He argues that intelligence is not a fixed trait, but a complex and evolving process that involves multiple cognitive abilities, such as reasoning, memory, attention, processing speed, and creativity.

Kaufman also emphasizes the role of motivation, passion, curiosity, and self-regulation in enhancing one’s intellectual potential. He challenges the notion of giftedness as a static label, and proposes instead a developmental approach that recognizes the diversity of talents and potentials among individuals. He states: “I believe that every person has their own unique form of intelligence that can be expressed in many ways” (Kaufman, 2013, p. xiv).

Kaufman is also interested in exploring the psychological factors that foster creativity and Self-actualization. He defines creativity as “the engagement of imagination for self-expression or problem-solving” (Kaufman & Gregoire, 2015, p. 4). He identifies several habits and traits that are conducive to creative thinking, such as openness to experience, mindfulness, playfulness, courage, perseverance, and collaboration.

Kaufman also draws on the work of Abraham Maslow and other humanistic psychologists to investigate the conditions that enable people to reach their highest potential and well-being. Kaufman proposes a new model of Self-actualization that integrates Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with recent findings from positive psychology. He suggests that Self-actualization is not a final destination, but a continuous process that involves transcending one’s ego and connecting with one’s true-self, others, nature, and humanity.

Kaufman’s vision is to help people discover and cultivate their unique strengths and passions, overcome their challenges and limitations, and achieve their personal and professional aspirations. He believes that everyone has the capacity to grow, learn, create, and contribute to society in meaningful ways. He says: “My ultimate goal is to help all kinds of minds live a creative, productive life” (Podcast: Unlocking Our Potential with Humanistic Psychology – Psych Central, 2023).

Theory of Personal Intelligence

The Theory of Personal Intelligence is a novel perspective on human intelligence that challenges the traditional view of intelligence as a fixed and general ability.

According to this theory, intelligence is “the dynamic interplay of engagement and abilities in pursuit of personal goals” (Kaufman, 2013, p. 9). Intelligence, therefore, should be measured relative to one’s self and one’s aims, not relative to other people.

Kaufman (2013) argues that intelligence is not a single trait that can be captured by a single test score, but rather a complex and dynamic process that involves multiple factors, such as motivation, creativity, curiosity, self-regulation, and mind wandering. For example, a person who is passionate about music may show high levels of intelligence in composing, performing, or appreciating music, even if they score low on a conventional IQ test.

Kaufman (2013) also proposes that intelligence can be developed and enhanced through deliberate practice, feedback, and reflection. The Kaufman Theory of Personal Intelligence offers a more holistic and inclusive view of human potential that recognizes the diversity and uniqueness of each individual.

Dual-Process Theory of Human Intelligence

The Kaufman Dual-Process Theory of Human Intelligence is a framework that integrates modern dual-process theories of cognition with research on human intelligence.

According to this theory, intelligent functioning depends on the ability to adapt to task demands by flexibly switching between two modes of thought: intuitive and analytical. Intuitive thinking, also known as “System 1”, is fast, automatic, associative, and often unconscious. Analytical thinking, also known as “System 2”, is slow, deliberate, rule-based, and often conscious.

Kaufman (2013) argued that “neither mode of thought is absolutely more important than the other” (p. 12) and that both modes can contribute to creativity and problem-solving in different ways. For example, intuitive thinking can facilitate insight, analogy, and implicit learning, while analytical thinking can facilitate reasoning, planning, and explicit learning.

Kaufman (2014) also proposed that personal intelligence, which is the ability to understand oneself and others, can enhance both modes of thought by increasing self-awareness, motivation, and empathy.

The Kaufman Dual-Process Theory of Human Intelligence is a relatively new theory that has not received much empirical support or criticism yet, but it offers a promising perspective on the complex and dynamic nature of human intelligence.


Kaufman has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and 10 books, including:

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (2013)

In his book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (2013), Scott Barry Kaufman challenges the traditional view of intelligence as a fixed and measurable trait that can be captured by IQ tests. He argues that intelligence is a dynamic and multifaceted construct that reflects the interaction of various cognitive, emotional, motivational and personal factors.

Kaufman draws on the latest research in genetics, neuroscience and psychology to show how human potential can be nurtured and developed in different ways, depending on the individual’s goals, interests and passions. He also shares his own personal story of overcoming low expectations and labels to achieve academic and professional success.

Kaufman proposes a new theory of intelligence that he calls the Theory of Personal Intelligence. According to this theory, intelligence is not a single ability, but a collection of eight broad abilities that can be combined and recombined to suit different contexts and tasks. These abilities are: creative, practical, analytical, verbal, spatial, perceptual, emotional and social.

Kaufman claims that these abilities are not fixed at birth, but can be enhanced through deliberate practice, feedback and environmental support. He also emphasizes the role of personal characteristics, such as curiosity, grit, optimism and self-regulation, in influencing the development and expression of intelligence.

One of the main themes of the book is that intelligence is not a static property of the brain, but a dynamic process that involves the whole person. Kaufman illustrates this point with various examples of people who have achieved remarkable feats of intelligence despite having low IQ scores or learning disabilities.

For instance, he cites the case of Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who had an IQ of 125, which is considered average by conventional standards. Kaufman argues that Feynman’s intelligence was not limited by his IQ score, but rather enhanced by his curiosity, creativity and passion for physics. He writes: “Feynman’s story shows us that what matters is not how smart we are in general, but how smart we are in what we love” (p. 179).

Another example is Temple Grandin, an animal scientist and autism advocate who has a form of autism that impairs her verbal skills but enhances her spatial and perceptual skills. Kaufman explains how Grandin used her unique abilities to design humane animal facilities and to communicate her insights to the world. He writes: “Grandin’s story shows us that what matters is not how we process information in general, but how we process information in ways that are personally meaningful” (p. 211).

Kaufman’s book is a powerful and inspiring message for anyone who has ever felt limited by their IQ score or their labels. It is also a call for educators, parents and policymakers to rethink the way they assess and nurture intelligence in children and adults. Kaufman concludes: “We all have the potential for greatness if we recognize our own unique combination of abilities and passions” (p. 279).

Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (2015)

Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (2015) is a book by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and journalist Carolyn Gregoire that explores the traits, habits and experiences of highly creative people.

The authors argue that creativity is not a fixed trait that some people have and others don’t, but rather a dynamic process that can be cultivated and enhanced by anyone.

They identify 10 key factors that contribute to the creative mindset, such as imagination, passion, mindfulness, openness, curiosity, sensitivity, playfulness, solitude, collaboration and resilience. They also show how these factors are often paradoxical, requiring the creative person to balance seemingly opposite tendencies, such as being serious and playful, mindful and daydreaming, open and sensitive, solitary and collaborative.

The book is filled with examples of creative individuals from various fields, such as Albert Einstein, Frida Kahlo, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling and David Bowie, who illustrate how they used these factors to overcome challenges and produce original and meaningful work.

The authors also provide practical tips and exercises for readers to develop their own creative potential and express their unique vision. As they write in the introduction: “Creativity is not just a gift bestowed upon a lucky few; it is a way of being that can be learned, practised and cultivated” (Kaufman & Gregoire, 2015, p. 3).

Transcend: The New Science of Self-actualization (2020)

Kaufman’s Transcend: The New Science of Self-actualization (2020) is a groundbreaking book that reimagines Maslow‘s famous hierarchy of needs and offers new insights for realizing one’s full potential and living a creative, fulfilled and connected life.

Kaufman picks up where Maslow left off, unravelling the mysteries of his unfinished theory of transcendence, which he defined as “the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness” (Maslow, 1971, p. 269). Kaufman integrates these ideas with the latest research on attachment, connection, exploration, love, purpose and other building blocks of a life well lived.

He proposes a new hierarchy of needs that consists of two tiers: the security tier and the growth tier. The security tier includes the basic needs for safety, connection and self-esteem, while the growth tier includes the higher needs for exploration, love and purpose. Kaufman argues that these needs are not fixed or rigid, but rather dynamic and flexible, depending on the context and the person.

He also suggests that fulfilling these needs is not enough for transcendence; one must also cultivate integration, wholeness and harmony within oneself and with others. Kaufman provides practical advice and exercises for achieving transcendence, as well as inspiring examples of people who have transcended their limitations and challenges, such as Viktor Frankl, Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey and Malala Yousafzai.

Kaufman’s book is a valuable contribution to the field of positive psychology and humanistic psychology, as well as a guide for anyone who wants to transcend their circumstances and realize their true potential.

Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning Difficulties (2018)

Kaufman’s (2018) book, Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning Difficulties, is a comprehensive and evidence-based guide for educators, parents, and researchers who work with students who are both gifted and have learning challenges.

The book covers various topics related to the identification, advocacy, social-emotional development, and educational support of twice-exceptional (2e) students, who often fall between the cracks in traditional educational systems. The book also showcases diverse perspectives and experiences of 2e students from different backgrounds, such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD, and cultural diversity.

Kaufman (2018) argues that 2e students are not simply a combination of disability and giftedness, but rather a dynamic interaction of both, requiring a holistic and individualized approach to their needs. He writes, “The 2e movement is about honouring the complexity of human potential” (p. 3).

One example of a program that supports 2e students is the Bridges Academy in California, which offers a strength-based curriculum that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and self-advocacy among its students. The book also provides practical strategies and resources for parents and educators to help 2e students thrive in and out of school.


Bio – Scott Barry Kaufman. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2023, from

Kaufman, S. B. (2023). Transcend: The new science of Self-actualization. Penguin Random House.

Kaufman, S.B. (2013). Ungifted: Intelligence redefined. Basic Books.

Kaufman, S.B., & Gregoire, C. (2015). Wired to create: Unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind. Penguin.

Kaufman, S. B. (2013). Ungifted: Intelligence redefined. Basic Books.

Kaufman, S. B. (2017). My quest to understand human intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg, S. T. Fiske, & D. J. Foss (Eds.), Scientists making a difference: One hundred eminent behavioral and brain scientists talk about their most important contributions (pp. 205-208). Cambridge University Press.

Kaufman, S. B. (2013). The creativity of dual process “System 1” thinking. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Kaufman, S. B. (2014). The dual-process theory of human intelligence. In D. K. Simonton (Ed.), The Wiley handbook of genius (pp. 141-159). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Kaufman, S.B. (2013). Ungifted: Intelligence redefined. Basic Books/Hachette Book Group.

Kaufman, S.B. (2013). Ungifted: Intelligence redefined [Summary]. Retrieved from

Kaufman, S. B., & Gregoire, C. (2015). Wired to create: Unravelling the mysteries of the creative mind. New York: Penguin.

Kaufman, S. B. (2020). Transcend: The new science of Self-actualization. New York: Penguin Books.

Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking Press.

Kaufman, S. B. (Ed.). (2018). Twice exceptional: Supporting and educating bright and creative students with learning difficulties. Oxford University Press.

Podcast: Unlocking Our Potential with Humanistic Psychology – Psych Central. (2023, August 3). Retrieved December 13, 2023, from

Psych Central. (2023). Podcast: Unlocking our potential with humanistic psychology. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2023). Scott Barry Kaufman. Retrieved from

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