Editorial Illustration for Utne Reader : When Smart Kids Grow Up

This was an editorial illustration done for an article titled, When Smart Kids Grow Up.

This article highlighted findings from the Harvard Business Review about the confidence levels of gifted children after they grow up.

In a Columbia University study, bright fifth graders were evaluated to determine how different kinds of praise affected their performances. The students were given three sets of problems—the first relatively easy, the second nearly impossible, and the third simple. Every child succeeded easily on the first set and failed the second set, but their performance on the third set varied depending on earlier feedback. Offering the praise “You must be really smart!” to one group resulted in a 25 percent drop in performance on the third set of problems. Conversely, the group that received praise that focused on their effort (“You must have worked really hard!”) improved their performance by 25 percent. The “smart” group became stymied, while the “hard-working” group persisted, feeling that if they tried hard enough, they would succeed.

Ironically, writes the Review, “gifted children grow up to be more vulnerable, and less confident, even when they should be the most confident people in the room.”

I really wanted to magnify the feeling of the gifted adults looming academic success in this illustration.


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