Scott Barry Kaufman

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Scott Barry Kaufman
Scott Barry Kaufman Aspen.png
Scientific career
FieldsHumanistic psychology
Positive psychology
Cognitive science
Educational psychology

Scott Barry Kaufman is an American cognitive scientist, author, podcaster, and popular science writer. His writing and research focuses on intelligence, creativity, and human potential. Most media attention has focused on Kaufman's attempt to redefine intelligence.[1][2][3] Kaufman is founder and director of the Center for Human Potential and has taught courses at Columbia, NYU, the University of Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. He is one of the top 20 most cited scientists studying intelligence.[4]

Kaufman has also written a number of books and is host of The Psychology Podcast. In 2015, he was named one of "50 groundbreaking scientists who are changing the way we see the world" by Business Insider,[5] and in 2021 Louis Vuitton selected him as one of 200 "visionaries" to celebrate Vuitton's 200th birthday. As a result, his "Manifesto for a Human-Centered Education" appeared in "200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries: The Exhibition" around the world. In 2022, he taught a class on gratitude with Oprah.


Kaufman received his B.S. from Carnegie Mellon University, where he double majored in psychology and human-computer interaction, and where he was Herbert A. Simon's last research assistant and a student of Randy Pausch.[6] In 2005, he received his M.Phil. from King's College, Cambridge under a Gates Scholarship, where he worked with Nicholas Mackintosh.[7] After Cambridge, Kaufman earned his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Yale University where he was mentored by Robert Sternberg, Jeremy R. Gray, and Jerome L. Singer.[8] From 2009-2010, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies.[9]


The dual-process theory of human intelligence[edit]

Most theories of human intelligence and tests of intelligence emphasize controlled and deliberate reasoning as the hallmark of human intelligence. While agreeing that such thought processes are an important component of intelligence, Kaufman argues that spontaneous forms of thinking such as insight, imaginative play, daydreaming, implicit learning, and a reduced latent inhibition are also important contributors to a wide range of intelligent behaviors as well as creativity.[10][11] Integrating modern dual-process theories of cognition with research on human intelligence, Kaufman proposed the dual-process theory of human intelligence.[12][13][14][15]

The theory emphasizes the importance of adaptation to task demands as the essence of intelligent functioning. At the same time, the theory takes into account an individual's personal goals and accommodates a wide range of intelligent behaviors in a wide range of fields, from the arts to the sciences. A key assumption of the theory is that abilities are not static entities but are constantly changing throughout the life span as the person continually engages with controlled and spontaneous modes of thought. In Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman expanded his dual-process theory to make the point that his theory is also fundamentally developmental, because it views intelligence as the dynamic interplay of engagement and ability over time in the pursuit of personal goals. [16]

Light triad[edit]

Influenced by the dark triad theory of antisocial personalities, Kaufman is researching a proposed "light triad" of personality virtues: humanism, Kantianism, and faith in humanity.[17]


Kaufman has also been involved in research examining grandiose and vulnerable subtypes of narcissism.[18][19]

Tragic optimism[edit]

The concept of "tragic optimism" in the phrase coined by the existential-humanistic psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, has been suggested by Kaufman as a healthy antidote to toxic positivity.[20]



  • Choose Growth: A Workbook for Transcending Trauma, Fear, and Self-Doubt (2022) New York, NY: TarcherPerigee. (ISBN 0-593-53863-3)
  • Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization (2020) New York, NY: TarcherPerigee. (ISBN 0-143-13120-6)
  • Twice Exceptional: Supporting and Educating Bright and Creative Students with Learning Difficulties (2018) New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (ISBN 0-190-64547-4)
  • Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (with Carolyn Gregoire) (2015) New York, NY: TarcherPerigee. (ISBN 0-399-17410-9)
  • The Philosophy of Creativity (with Elliot Samuel Paul) (2014). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (ISBN 0-199-83696-5)
  • The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent or Practice (2013) New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (ISBN 0-199-79400-6)
  • Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (2013). New York, NY: Basic Books. (ISBN 0-465-02554-4)
  • Mating Intelligence Unleashed: The Role of the Mind in Sex, Dating, and Love (with Glenn Geher) (2013). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (ISBN 0-195-39685-5)
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence (with Robert J. Sternberg) (2011). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. (ISBN 0-521-73911-X)
  • The Psychology of Creative Writing (with James C. Kaufman) (2009). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. (ISBN 0-521-70782-X)


  1. ^ Why We Need to Redefine Intelligence, Harvard Business Review IdeaCast, 13 June 2013.
  2. ^ Redefining Intelligence Archived 2013-06-18 at the Wayback Machine, The Leonard Lopate Show- WNYC, 13 June 2013.
  3. ^ Beyond IQ: 5 Ways to Reframe Success and Smarts, Fast Co.Create, 13 June 2013.
  4. ^ Sternberg, Robert (2018). The Nature of Human Intelligence. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1316629642.
  5. ^ Martin, Jessica Orwig, Emmie. "50 groundbreaking scientists who are changing the way we see the world". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-06-21.
  6. ^ "Scott Kaufman | BHCI Alumni | Class of 2003".
  7. ^ "Scott Kaufman | Gates Cambridge Alumni".
  8. ^ "Yale Psychology Dept. Ph.D. Graduates | Department of Psychology".
  9. ^ "People | CLEA".
  10. ^ Dreams of Glory, Psychology Today, March 2014.
  11. ^ Why Daydreamers Are More Creative, Beautiful Minds, 27 February 2011.
  12. ^ Kaufman, S. B. (2009). Beyond general intelligence: The dual-process theory of human intelligence (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation). Yale University, New Haven, CT.
  13. ^ Kaufman, S.B. (2011). Intelligence and the cognitive unconscious. In R.J. Sternberg & S.B. Kaufman (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Intelligence (pp. 442-467). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  14. ^ Kaufman, J.C., Kaufman, S.B., & Plucker, J.A. (2013). Contemporary theories of intelligence. In J. Reisberg (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology (pp. 811-822). New York, NY: Oxford University Press
  15. ^ 6 Clues to Character, Psychology Today, 15 December 2011.
  16. ^ Book Review - Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Creativity Post, June 14, 2013
  17. ^ Oakes, Kelly. "The 'light triad' that can make you a good person". BBC. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  18. ^ Ellwood, Beth (2022-04-12). "Narcissism study sheds new light on the relationship between grandiose and vulnerable subtypes". PsyPost. Retrieved 2023-04-05.
  19. ^ Kaufman, Scott Barry; Weiss, Brandon; Miller, Joshua D.; Campbell, W. Keith (February 2020). "Clinical Correlates of Vulnerable and Grandiose Narcissism: A Personality Perspective". Journal of Personality Disorders. 34 (1): 107–130. doi:10.1521/pedi_2018_32_384. ISSN 0885-579X. PMID 30179576. S2CID 52154467.
  20. ^ Kaufman, Scott Barry (2021-08-18). "The Opposite of Toxic Positivity". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2023-01-06.

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