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Multipotentiality is an educational and psychological term referring to the ability of a person, particularly one of strong intellectual or artistic curiosity, to excel in two or more different fields.[1] It can also refer to an individual whose interests span multiple fields or areas, rather than being strong in just one. Such traits are called multipotentialities, while "multipotentialites" has been suggested as a name for those with this trait. By contrast, those whose interests lie mostly within a single field are called "specialists."

While the term multipotentialite can be used interchangeably with polymath or Renaissance Person, the terms are not identical. One need not be an expert in any particular field to be a multipotentialite. Other terms used to refer to multipotentialites are scanners, slashers, and multipods, among others.

While there is some dispute[citation needed] as to the degree of prevalence of this phenomenon, it can be a significant problem for those who experience it, leading to overscheduling, high stress levels, confusion, paralysis by analysis, and impulsive or conformist choices in gifted children, and to feelings of social alienation, purposelessness, apathy and depression in the brightest of adults.[citation needed] Boredom is also a frequent occurrence in multipotentialites who have already "mastered" or learned everything they desire to know about a particular topic before moving on.[citation needed]

Leonardo da Vinci may be the best historical example of an acknowledged genius who struggled from the difficulties often associated with multipotentiality. Having failed to complete many of the projects he started, and has been quoted as saying: "I have wasted my hours" and "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."[2]

Other notable multipotentialites throughout history are Averroes, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, René Descartes, Sir Isaac Newton, Aristotle, and Archimedes.


  1. ^ Fisher, Tamara (11 August 2010). "Multipotentiality - Unwrapping the Gifted". Education Week Teacher. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 
  2. ^ "I have offended God and...". BrainyQuote. Retrieved 25 February 2013. 

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