Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Stuttering produces no genuises

This Telegraph article describes that Prof of Psychiatry Fitzgerald believes:
"Psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions. I'm arguing the genes for autism/Asperger's, and creativity are essentially the same.
I only agree to some degree. A mild form of autism might push people to do extraordinary work, but in the vast majority of cases they just suffer from their disorder without doing any high standard work. Some researchers even view autism as an extreme version of a male brain with more of its strengths and weaknesses!

A reader has sent me the article and asked whether this is also true for stuttering. First, stuttering is not a psychiatric disorder but a motor-control and integration problem that leads to psychological and social issues. We have an average brain with average capabilities. Second, I would argue that any disorder that doesn't kill you and that can be overcome to some degree may be a source of motivation. The saying goes: What doesn't kill you makes you tough. I have seen many people who stutter who were successful because instead of giving up because of stuttering draw an enormous amount of drive and motivation from it. And, it is an open secret that over-protected kids from caring and wealthy families rarely make it big; they just don't have the need to do so. With exception of Paris Hilton, maybe. Of course, we need to contrast this with the many (in fact the majority of people) who live a life below their potential due to their stuttering.

Finally, let me assure you that even if stuttering does not lead to geniuses, stuttering does not prevent you from being a genius either! So there is hope for us all. ;-)


MommaWriter said...

I have to wonder if the idea that people who stutter might actually be smarter than average has its roots in a different fallacy...that people who stutter are mentally slow. I wonder if perhaps some people are so surprised at the normal intelligence of kids and adults who stutter that they actually think these people are even smarter than they are...just because they defied expectations!

Like you said, it's not that stuttering produces people with higher or lower IQs. It's just that stuttering can affect *anyone* and is therefore associated with the same range of intelligence as the general population.


Tom Weidig said...


that's very possible. Good explanation! I should write a post about this fallacy.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

This kind of fallacy is very common in the stuttering population itself. Many stutterers think stuttering gives them some kind of "special smart personality": shy but interesting, artistic predisposition, genious, etc... I used to think so in my teens. I suppose it was yet another form of denial.

Pablo. Spain.

Anonymous said...

Tommie dude...

U R evidenced based proof that stuttering can B found in idiots...

+ I M a stutterer...not a idiot...;-)!

Anonymous said...

Just to add to the comments:

I am a stutter and I do have a high IQ (whatever genius IQ means...I have taken the Mensa test and passed it and have always tested to around a 145-150 IQ on average)

I have always wondered if stutterers, in general, had an average IQ higher than that of the general public. I have always wondered if my intelligence was a side effect of my brain trying to rewire itself to compensate for whatever is 'damaged' and causing the stuttering.

There have been numerous cases of people with brain injuries or conditions that develop extraordinary mental abilities as a result of the injury or condition. Usually these abilities come in time, after the brain has had sufficient time to find new neural pathways and 'rewire' itself (or something to that extent are what the current theories are). It seems as if the brain can recover from certain injuries and rewire itself to use different areas of the brain for activities that it normally wasn't used for.

I have always wondered if my intelligence had anything to do with stuttering or not. Have other areas of my brain 'compensated' for the area of the brain causing the disfluency? Has my brain rewired itself, resulting in the use of other areas of the brain promoting side effects of better spatial visualization or mathematical abilities?

I don't know. Maybe I would have had the same IQ whether I stuttered or not. Maybe stuttering hindered my brain's ability to function better...maybe stuttering helped my brain to function better in other areas. All of this is just speculation because I can't go back and repeat the experiment as a non PWS.

Either way, I thought I would add my comments since this is an area that has always intrigued me.

BTW, I still am a PWS, but most people don't even know it. I don't stutter by repitition or words or sounds, but rather I get blocks and know that I am going to stutter. If I do try to say the word, then I will have an elongated sound, rather than a repetitive stutter. So, I tend to avoid words or just sit quietly and be 'shy'. Overall though, through the years, I have learned to somewhat overcome it and 'almost' cure myself of stuttering, though I know it's always there.

I hope that there is something like deep brain stimulation or Pagaclone or something in the near future that can once an for all cure stuttering or eliminate the symptoms for a period of time. I think most of us know it's a physical issue with the brain, so it's on;y a matter of time before a cure is developed. Hopefully that day will come soon. : )

Sorry for the long babble,

Unknown said...

Thanks for this article. I am a stutterer, but have improved immensely over the years once I got over my anxiety. It comes back when I'm anxious to speak- and you know that most stutterers have a thousands thoughts running through their heads, therefore making it hard for their vocals to catch up. I found that my posture, and breath makes me speak fluently.. as well as confidence.

Also, I think maybe people might believe that people with speech impediments or any kind of disorder are naturally genius because you do have many stutterers with great accomplishments and most are legendary. I found myself getting smarter and understanding things a lot better and this is the reason: when you are not talking, you're listening and observing, therefore making it easier and giving you a better chance than others to learn more and take in all the knowledge and wisdom around you. Those that do all the talking don't learn much; those that listen and observe know more.

I've been stuttering since birth- which was 27 years ago and I was a bad one. My face use to contort horribly and I had to punch myself in the leg to even a get one letter out. My face still looks crazy when I have my occasional attacks, but understanding why I stutter and how to overcome it is really helping me succeed. I am slo honest with my associates when I feel an attack coming on, and people love honest and candid people. My associates accept it, and it helps me speak without trying so hard.

Thanks for posting this... and remember, this is just my opinion. This worked for me, but it may not work for everyone.

Anonymous said...

My IQ is 129, and my EIQ is 142. Maybe Stuttering doesn't make you smarter, but improves certain qualities.

Thank-you for the article.

I'm a fifteen year old mild-stutterer, and my stutter is highly-linked to my emotions. My IQ is 129, my EIQ is 142 (aproximately) I can't say for certain, but I do think that having a stutter inhances certain qualities. Maybe we really are ALL created equal.

Anonymous said...

What about all the geniuses who stuttered like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, James Earl Jones?

Anonymous said...

Hi. My name is Joao and I am also a stutter. I agree that stutter is something terrible, but also stimulates our brain. I will give you examples... A normal person specks fluently and he speaks whatever he wants... stutters sometimes have in micro-seconds to review their "diccionary" in order to find a similiar word that is more easy to say. This fast processing is very usefull is many cases... Our brain is faster and is always ready!

many people don't know that I stutter, because I block, I always know when I am going to stutter, so I try to avoid some words... Somestimes is horrible to play with words like that.

When I'm tired is very dificult to control because your CPU is uncapable of handling everithing...

I have days of 100% fluency, and those are the days where my confidence is high... so I link stuttering with fear,anxiety and low self-confidence. Sometimes I feel a terrible fear that people find that I am a stutter...

Incredibly I stutter more with my family, because of all the sentimental tension maybe...

I am an Electronics Engineer, and for now I have been successfull...

The hard part is to talk in the telephone, specialy when is me who's calling... :)

Well it's a stutters life... I want a beer, but is better to order a cola because is easier to say...

Joao, Portugal

Anonymous said...

I'm a 14 year old studderer. I've been given several reasons as to why I studder and I really don't know to this point. I saw a show that links it to we have higher IQs as some suggested. But no one is for sure. A definite fact is our brains can react quicker. No joke. But I can't do debate because I can't get my words that straight in that short of time, and pronounce it without studdering:(. I'm a naturally nervous person, but brighter on some scale compared to most people. My father studders but he hides it well.for a couple of weeks I can't studder even if I try! Than for a week I can't even say "yes" without it coming out as y-y-y-ye-yes. Or y----es. Its rather annoying. People that don't studder don't understand how hard, embarrassing, or frustrating this disorder can be.

Anonymous said...

I have stuttered all my life, and I always knew that I was pretty intellegent. Im smarter than 95% of the people that I know. I have an of IQ 147. Most of my friends come to me when they have a problem in their life. I believe the reason that stutterers are more intelligent is because when one of attributes is taken away e.g. Speech. Other parts of your brain is activated. Just like a person who is blind, Their other senses are higher developed.

Anonymous said...


I've stuttered my whole. I'm a mensa member and, though I don't know what my iq is (the mensa people don't give you your raw score), I do know I've been in the mensa range since I was 10.

I only personally know 3 other people who stutter, two have average and the other has slightly above average intelligence. Though this is far from a representative sample I've never had any reason to think stutterers were smarter than normal.

Also, the people who comment on this post would be stutterers with above average iq. The stutterers who have average/below average intelligence wouldn't comment.

Anonymous said...

Ok, i have read all the comments and the text. I am from Serbia,and I have juste been cured. I have stopped stuttering, but I need to say something- during my therapy I was in group of 5 people, only one of us had IQ less then 135. I am in MENSA and so are two other guys from my group.

Darren said...

Thank you SO MUCH! We stutterers have endured so much throughout history, and have finally reached some modicum of respect with the theory of genius being related to stuttering. But luckily you've destroyed that. Thank you SO MUCH for setting us back and letting our public humiliations continue! How can I thank you?!

Sheogorath said...

"Psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions. I'm arguing the genes for Autism/Asperger's, and creativity are essentially the same."
The guy who said the above is either ignorant or an idiot. All he had to do to find out that ASDs aren't psychiatric disorders of any type was to Google a little. Yet another example of someone not using the full potential of their intellect.

Sheogorath said...

"Psychiatric disorders can also have positive dimensions. I'm arguing the genes for autism/Asperger's, and creativity are essentially the same."
Except that Autism isn't a psychiatric disorder, it's a neurological and physical difference. Some people really need to go back to school.

Anonymous said...

I smart person sometimes knows when to not answer.

Smart said...

What causes the stutter is that stutters think faster and more deeply than non stutters and the thoughts are generated so quickly that the speaking becomes overloaded

lester said...

Hi folks.
I'm 22, italian, nasty stuttering.
Some periods are better, more manageble, some others are just dark and friggin' scary.
Right now I'm practicly living in fear, freezing, profound and heavy fear.
And I'm beginning to hate this disfunction, because, as you guys, I can feel that I'm always smarter, deeper and quicker than other people, I can argue, analyze and discuss sh*t in ways that the 95% of people I know can't even imagine in their deepest and wildest fantasies, but it's just not enough. I mean, and I KNOW it, I always have, I could basicly do EVERYTHING I want if I just hadn't this bloody problem, everything. I hate it, I really hate it.
And I'm starting to worry about the future.
I mean, how am I supposed to get a job, ANY job, if I'm not able to call a goddamn pizza using the telephone?
I'm studing law right now, and I'm really sweating blood on the books, but EVERY TIME that I'm facing the professor, I get rock solid stuck.
It's not worth the effort, it is just not, for heaven's sake.

Anonymous said...

I am also a stutterer, the relationship between stutterers who are smarter and those who may not be, in my opinion, can be explained by understanding which aspect came first. There are people who are very intelligent, their brains process things faster that their other body parts can. I have always believed that this is how I developed my stutter, When I was young, I would feel my brain processing so many ideas within such short moments that my lips could never catch up, so i ended up a very fast talker and in some cases when my lips fail completely then I stammer. I also have a problem with skipping words, which I think some of the stutterers here may also be having.
For the other types of people where stuttering developed without an inherent need to express ideas or thoughts, their IQs may not necessarily be any better than the average person.
So if you stammer, you belong in two categories (or more depending on your opinion), those who are already very intelligent that they stutter because their lips can not match the speed of their brains. Or those who stutter without necessarily having a brain that's working too fast. Kind of like understanding the direction of the effect, in the first situation its from the brain to the lips, in the second situation its from the lips to the brain. And people who do not stutter may not even understand what am saying.
By the way, has any of you noticed that stuttering is seasonal? there are times of the month/year when stuttering is more severe than other times? Think about this!!

Ryan M. Parr said...

Remember that the majority of social interaction is nonverbal.

Like others have said; speed of thought (or low-latent inhibition processing) which could either be direct correlation to "intelligence" or otherwise the inability to "process" all at once. A skewed asynchrony created at times when one might be in "visual mode" or verbal, or likewise when doing phone conversation the absence of visual may be sorely lacking and hence, the desire to know how to respond or to know what the recepient is cognizent of during the interim, might result in unneeded anxiety.

I'm prone to blame it on having ear infections: one this could result in more visual thinking style than verbal, despite being very capable with verbal thought process; in fact I have routinely "tested" as "holistic brain" preference. Perhaps some people are more predisposed to being able to jump between verbal and visual that they sometimes get startled by how to respond, and it's "fight or flight" in the non-crazy kind of way (and hence the misconception; mankind did not evolve purely to talk. . .) and we are out of step in a hyperstimulated environment. Perhaps many that stutter--albeit perhaps more adept at "multitasking" environments that give ample dynamic of interaction, would prefer the sedated lifestyle cloistered away with little outside stimulation/distraction. It's not the inability but the dependency that it requires. . . Constantly tied into the "matrix" of everyday life, that we would rather withdraw, rather than be pushing buttons like some animal in a cage.

Ways that I try to cope: When on the phone let the intended recipient "respond" as an opening to silence, or change wording of intro if possible. If physically present and the reason for stuttering is a result of knowing the person doesn't seem like one that "gets it" and any attempt at accomodation would "fall on deaf ears" to what I have to say. Perhaps the result of being in mismatched environments creates the disequilibrium as it were; just like so-called extroverts probably wouldn't be "extroverted" if surrounded by "introverts" all the time, so too are the motivational aspects of reward and praise placed on those that are considered "normal."

I sympathize/relate to those that fear of the effects that such anxieties bring. Somethings borne out of talents can appear to others as an inability purely because you are out of step with them. Differences are scorned and not embraced, and you may also be seen as a threat if you can outperform; sometimes the opposite is a dissadvantage and the gnawing realization crawls into your psyche like worms picking away at your corpse.

I suspect avoiding coffee and wheat products to be a good idea. I'm not sure if my buying an espresso machine made things worse, or merely change of inadvertent coping mechanisms (remove options to escape anxiety prone situations where you no longer have control, and the potential to stutter is elevated.) Remove elements of a "comfort zone;" and perhaps inability to cope effectively is what results in nerve-riddled stuttering?

Unknown said...

A simple google of the words "Stuttering and IQ" proves that everything in this article is wrong.

People who stutter are usually smarter than average. Whoever is responsible for this article being on the net should remove it. It is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Lets have a good laugh and ignore one more person who is jealous of stutterers.
The only thing i can't understand: who the hell is he to find out the conclusions when in reaity the whole irritating world can't find out the reasons for stuttering and if high IQ is linked with stuttering then why not accept it

Anonymous said...

I've been struggling with stuttering since age 11. I'm still trying to find the real cause of my stutter as in the past i've had emotional problems leading to shyness and to lack of self esteem. In the present, aged 17, still finding it very hard to cope with this stuttering problem. Maybe lack of acceptance is not helping me to improve my speech? I find it very difficult and stressful when talking in public,and although I try very hard not to get anxious before getting the words out, it always seems not to be working fine for me.

Are stutterers idiots? ..A BIG NO!!! Sometimes I think that people take me for granted and think that I'm stupid cause of my stutter, I try not to believe that but its not always easy trying to get that thought out of your head!

The past few years I tried consulting with a speech pathologist, but it still didnt work for me. I also used to go for drama therapy, well it was worth the while as it enhanced and bittered my confidence and it also boosted my self esteem. Now I'm still trying not to get fearful and anxious whenever I get to talk and asked a question.

Soon school is starting and college isnt an easy step to take in the case of stutterers. I have daily neverending worries about my life and future. Like I try to set goals for my career and future, but can I have a fulfilling career in the future regardless of my stuttering?

Regarding the debate about intelligence, I dont think that it matters that much in the case of us stutterers. I believe that everyone has an average IQ and no one is lesser than anybody else.

Well, I hope that soon in life I will get a chance to get over my stuttering as it lead me to give up things and never gave me a chance to reveal any of my thoughts/opinions that were always rummaging through my head. Any opinions or thoughts will be greatly appreciated and hope my comment helped some:)

Anonymous said...

I really feel you man.. I'm in the same position as you in my life right now. I cant even dare to aim and set goals for my future and career. I'm 17 years old..soon 18 and really confused about what my future's going to look like. Like am I still going to struggle with my stuttering problems throughout all my life? I try not to give up on my studies right now cause nobody knows what my future's going to look like in the future. But in the end the problem is still there.. How have you beem doing in these last few years since your post? Really psyched for your reply:)

Anonymous said...

I'm a well-known person, especially in my industry but I don't want to expose myself.

I'm a stutterer, and it's quite bad. A long time ago when I came to the US, I had $5 in my pocket (if you read one of my best-selling books you could probably guess who I am).

Today, I own one of the biggest hedge funds in New York, and I live a badass life.

I'm the living proof that stuttering won't stop you from achieving anything. I know one of the most experienced scientists, psychologists, and doctors in the US, there are studies and a bunch of evidence that stutters are WAY smarter than the average (non-stutterer) person. I don't know why the average gets butthurt seeing this.

Enjoy your day!

Tom Weidig said...

>> Today, I own one of the biggest hedge funds in New York, and I live a badass life.

Great, so maybe you can help fund some research into stuttering!

Lets have a chat! ;-)