Giftedness, the potential for exceptional achievement,
is characterized by high intelligence and creativity. Gifted people
exhibit a complex of cognitive, perceptual, emotional, motivational
and social traits. Extending neurophysiological hypotheses about the
general intelligence (g) factor, a construct is proposed to explain these
traits: neural propagation depth. The hypothesis is that in more
intelligent brains, activation propagates farther, reaching less directly
associated concepts. This facilitates problem-solving, reasoning,
divergent thinking and the discovery of connections. It also explains
rapid learning, perceptual and emotional sensitivity, and vivid
imagination. Flow motivation is defined as the universal desire to
balance skills and challenges. Gifted people, being more cognitively
skilled, will seek out more difficult challenges. This explains their
ambition, curiosity and perfectionism. Balance is difficult to achieve
in interaction with non-gifted peers, though, explaining the gifted’s
autonomy, non-conformism and feeling of alienation. Together with
the difficulty to find fitting challenges this constitutes a major
obstacle to realizing the gifted’s potential. The appendix sketches a
simulation using word association networks to test the propagation
depth model by answering IQ-test-like questions.