Visual and graphic abilities of the idiot savant artist

Psychol Med. 1987 Feb;17(1):79-90. doi: 10.1017/s0033291700013003.


Five idiots savants whose artistic output was judged to be at art school entrance standard were matched for performance and verbal IQ with control subjects who had no special artistic talent. Each subject was given tests of reproductive skill with both concrete pictures and unfamiliar and unnameable geometric designs. They were also asked to draw a man, and a test of picture completion was given which involved constructive imagination. In all tests the idiots savants proved clearly superior to IQ-matched controls, indicating the presence of an IQ-independent talent. The results are interpreted in terms of a superior image memory and ready access to a 'picture lexicon'. In addition, the existence of superior graphically directed motor programmes must be assumed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Art*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Intelligence
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance*