Beautiful Minds: The Psychology of the Savant

Beautiful Minds: The Psychology of the Savant

2006, Psychology  -   61 Comments
Ratings: 8.21/10 from 90 users.

Beautiful Minds: The Psychology of the SavantIn the field of brain research there is no subject more intriguing than the savant - an individual with mental, behavioral, or even physical disability who possesses acute powers of observation, mathematical aptitude, or artistic talent. This three-part series provides an enthralling look into the psychology and neuroscience of the savant’s mysterious world. 3-part series, 53 minutes each.

Memory Masters: How Savants Store Information. Reudiger Gamm performs complex arithmetic instantly and without help - his brain stores numbers like a calculator. Orlando Sorrel remembers exactly what he was doing on any date, at any hour, and can accurately predict the day of the week thousands of years in the future. Kim Peek - the original Rain Man - has read 12,000 books and hasn’t forgotten a single word.

The Einstein Effect: Savants and Creativity. Mute until the age of nine, Stephen Wiltshire learned to communicate through realistic, richly detailed drawings. Alonzo Clemens sculpts clay animal figures with great precision, even though he can barely form a sentence. Matt Savage faced extraordinary developmental problems as a child but has become a teen prodigy among jazz musicians.

A Little Matter of Gender: Developmental Differences among Savants. One of the great success stories from the world of autism, Temple Grandin revolutionized the field of livestock management, empowered by her sensitivity with animals. Tommy McHugh displayed no such sensitivity - until a brain hemorrhage transformed him from a brawler into a gentle soul.

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61 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Pete

    Would have liked to see a chess savant interviewed. Often they are homeless though

  2. tanmay

    Its really amazing and new for me

  3. Jaime

    Why aren't these guys being used to solve complex social issues like starvation, war, and genocide? Why are they not well paid to solve REAL math problems at the vanguard of numerical discovery?

  4. Fox

    What (piano) music was used in part 5/5 about halfway? (4.55 - 6.30)

  5. Ken Albertsen

    I've watched this fascinating film twice. The 1st time, the soundtrack was annoying. The 2nd time, the sound track forced me to curtail my viewing time. There are two monotonous tunes on the soundtrack. They alternate. The one-note first tune is worse than the 2nd, if that's possible. I suggest the makers of this series either drop the background music altogether (my choice), or pick better soundtracks.

    1. BillyTheBritt

      It isn't background music, it's background noise of such intensity that it makes the documentary unwatchable. This is a pity because it looks like an interesting documentary but unfortunatly I can't hear what is being said because of the clanging, banging noise in the background drowning everything out.

  6. Forbidden Fruit

    My theory: the savant brain--part of it anyway--is damaged or deficient, so another part tries to overcompensate, resulting in so-called savant skills. It's an adaptive trait that prevents the savant from being completely disabled.

    As an autistic two-year-old, I memorized lengthy books after only having them read to me once. I would recite the words verbatim so it looked like I was "reading". This scared my family very much! I couldn't actually read, my auditory memory was just strangely precise. When I saw the pictures and words on the page, I heard my mom's voice reading the book in my head and would imitate it. Thus, "reading".

    My visual memory predates my first birthday. I remember what it felt like to be a blank slate...not knowing what everyday things like clouds or telephones were. I learned to walk and run before crawling. I remember everything I've ever read and my visual memories are like movies that play back randomly with the corresponding year attached. In some ways I was a genius; in other ways I was profoundly disabled.

    To get to the point: If not for my overdeveloped "savant" memory, I would've never survived in the neurotypical world. Autistic people learn to socialize the same way a typical person studies for a test--by memorization and practice. It CAN be learned but will never come naturally. We're masters of imitation, which can be exhausting.

    I believe the human brain is capable of compensating for deficiencies. The real mystery is understanding the CAUSE of these deficiencies so we can prevent the suffering that often comes with them.

  7. Judy Connor

    I see no women savants yet. I wonder why.

  8. Judy Connor

    This man, Allan Snyder, is a distinguished professor and research and yet he goes on camera looking like a man in the midst of a ridiculous mid-life crisis in this sideways baseball cap. It doesn't look cute or quirky... just silly and self-demeaning.

  9. ronsfi

    Never have I seen so much bull s*it in one place. Pregnant stone age women dependent on men to hunt? Hollywood cliche. Weren't there any other women in that tribe? Testosterone is a toxin? Dude. That line still won't get you laid. You are not being avoided because you are exceptional but because you are weird.

  10. Hope Donnelly

    I've been sitting here watching this whole thing with my mouth open in awe :P

  11. Alexandru Matei

    "12,000 books and hasn’t forgotten a single word." - This still seems quite impossible.

  12. Diana Shaffer

    If men invented the wheel, women invented language. We all have our contributions and they are all important. (I'm not sure I believe in gender stereotyping but it annoyed me that that guy didn't list any other female contribution other than child rearing)

    1. Angry_Alumni

      Yeah, this man offended me too, but he gender stereotypes men just as ridiculously in another segment, he mentions women's ability to be emotionally articulate and how men's lack of empathy is "the first step toward autism." Maybe any finesse in his delivery was lost in translation...

  13. Werner Breedt

    It was truly amazing to see so many rare cases of brain function.

    I wonder how anyone feels about the gender definitions given to brain structure. I feel somewhat uncomfortable about defining male and female in such one dimensional terms, emphatic and systematic alone. Isn't this a gravely sexist assumption?

    I know many men who have a great capacity for empathy, and have met a great deal of women who seem hell bent on order and control. To say that one brain type is male, while the other is female seems to drip of determinism.

    Advanced science provides a great reach into the depths of neurology, but scientists are still left to determine the interpretation of these excursions within their theoretical paradigms. I am in awe of the great work that has been done in neurology, and what is possible in the future, but I also worry about the manner in which the language of the field is sometimes applied literally to explain the human condition.

    A previous post rightfully pointed out that the title of the film is 'Beautiful Minds', yet it revolves primarily around brain function. Is this evidence of modern science's in-distinction between epistemology and ontology?

  14. Godsclaws

    what the hell was that scientist going for? 'old harry potter tries to recapture his youth?' seriously what a GAY hat

  15. Rachel Buchner

    People with Autism have Empathy I know people with Autism and they have Empathy.

    1. Admir Efendic

      Of course they have empathy, it just doesnt translate into same behavioural patterns that rest of the people are used to, hence the misconception. :)

  16. Stephen Kemmy

    There is much that is exceptionally vulgar about the human science of the mind and its arrogant and insensitive stigmatization of human beings - the real truth is that they are nothing other than blind ignorant humans ( usually middle class with monstrous egos) who feel about in the dark and cause more harm than good. Perhaps there is no subject more intriguing than the psychologist - an individual unwilling to accept the spiritual mystery of nature and the universe.

  17. Gabriela

    I got bored at the second episode of this documentary

  18. Rachelnico

    I want them to turn off my left hemisphere for a day, see what I get up to

  19. Mike Knight

    i envy the insane...who are so acute that they tap into a realm yet left untouched by potential..i sometimes consider if i would be able to relinquish the social for the ingenious esoteric..then i remember how much i like tiggo bittays!

  20. Carl Mygind

    Great documentary.

    But let's get serious for a minute. THAT HAT! THAT F****** HAT! I could not understand any of what that guy was saying. I was literally bursting out of laughter everytime he came on screen.

    1. Jesse

      herp derp

    2. Frederick

      It pissed me off. I hate it when people put on ridiculous affectations like that. No, we don't think you're one of those quirky intelligent guys, no we don't think you're smart..but FUN and kind of PUNK, we just think you're an asshat that is realizing it literally.

  21. Spencer Funk

    Read "LEFT IN THE DARK" by Tony Wright

  22. Calgarycmmc Cmmc

    Every living a "rain man" in it's own way

  23. Calgarycmmc Cmmc

    google cannabis research a-z

  24. Gary V

    A fascinating doc, well worth watching.

  25. PaulGloor

    It is quite stunning to see what the human mind is capable of, even if it is a malfunction or rewiring due to damage. What I disagree on is that the brain looses unused connections forever. It remains plastic, trainable, and able to make new connections or bolster connections in little used pathways with training and repetition. Granted, it takes far more work the older you get, but its quite possible to 'teach an old dog new tricks'

  26. Angela Sogard

    I in last 20 weeks opened up a monster that i didnt know that i married...a freken everything makes sence...Im still alive thank god after the horrible terror and terroizing he did to me and kids........thiniking i was seeking help for a depression but all of sudden a was prisioner in my to keep him at his sisters while seeking help and making my plan filed divorce and taking children to a forensic get them and myself the right help!!! Never been so close to evil till now.....and worst part is he f--ked with the doctores heads and became a creature trying to sadisticlly real me and kids back into his controll....frk iowa cops wont listen to me eithr in our county because they all know the hell do i get him charged for class d felony when he talks his way out and everyone thinks it s me...............frk society

    1. Aubrey

      sorry, I know how hard it is to be near a psychopath/sociopath. They make everyone around them seem crazy while they are the ones destroying and hurting everyone that they pretend to love.

  27. Farking Spamhell

    How is it "beautiful" that you can memorize a whole phone book but you cant dress yourself.

    1. Demoorelizer

      Well because beauty is more of a subjective definition of qualities that please someone, and being subjective means that it is different for each person. You can say the same the other way, how is it that someone can put so much importance into dressing themselves but cannot perform rudimentary mathematical functions, aside from the fact that their school systems are failing them and culture seems to be pointing us toward a de-evolutionized state. Point being that beauty is different for different people, you may think beauty is the resemblance of the whole working in complete coordination to be completely flush with ones surroundings, or that beauty is something that transcends whatever someone besides that person may offer, something that makes them unique.

  28. His Forever

    When Kim Peek died, that was a true loss for all of us. I had always wanted to meet him.

    1. Gary V

      Yes he really was a truly remarkable man & loads of respect to his father for not putting him in an institution but looking after him so well.

  29. Guest

    For those of you who didn't like my poetry, you'll be happy to read that i was asked by the top not to write them anymore.
    I will do like ZarathustraSpeaks and quote the Spear or Poe....or just bitch about "religious people" like many do, that seem to be alright! (actually that's not me....i believe in live and let live)
    I must say V was very polite in his way to request.
    thank you

    1. His Forever

      Ah, really, Az? I didn't see any of your poety posts. I must actually have a life outside of Topdocs, and can't read 4 hours of posts like I used to (when I was even more busy than now). Ha ha.

    2. Guest

      Someone like you who is here almost everyday didn't see my poetry, you probably saw my comments as just comments written in my own style. Vlatko claims that often times they were out of context. In my opinion a lot of people post some pretty nasty things here, Vlatko should worry about those more than the peaceful poetry he does not understand!
      But hey! as he wrote before: "this is HIS site" so i will oblige or else go somewhere else.


    3. His Forever

      Ah yes. I did notice they were sometimes unique. That was one reason why I liked you.

      Peace to you.

  30. Intbel

    Very interesting and informative documentary.

    I wonder at the choice of title: "Beautiful Minds" when the whole focus is on the brain with the mind rarely mentioned.

  31. John Leonard

    simon baron cohen is related to Borat

  32. rawkidd

    Prof. Allan Snyder with that funny cap on his head. I mean, come on, you're a professor, not a 8 year old. Don't be such a wann-be savant.

  33. Moebius Mat

    Wow ... I almost wich I was an autist :)
    Our brain is really amasing !

  34. roberto garcia

    @6:53.... i just cannot take him serious with his hat like that,lol
    but very informative doc.. wish i had savant abilities

  35. Kevin McPeek

    It is interesting to see that the status quo human brain has evolved to observe then discard in order to balance the left and right hemispheres of thought. Seems like most Savants access their infinite categorization of observation by NOT having a balance of the L and R. I will be interested in what perceptional psychologists and studies of savants produces in understanding of consciousness. Seems like this doc is touching on the tip of the iceberg on what Savants mean to neuro science and humans in general.

  36. Sylvia North

    A well-made and thought-provoking--if not occasionally mind-blowing--documentary on the incredible mental skills of people once diagnosed as being "mentally retarded." Look at the world we live in and tell me who's crazy anymore.

  37. David T

    Amazing man,
    but why you post Youtube playlista videos, you can upload to some other video hosting service where they host Whole video.

    1. mrre

      There is something i consider very beneficial in the way Vlatko posts documentaries. Access to more content, information, etc. If you think of the web as a "web," then it becomes important to not leave dead-ends. Youtube playlists lead to channels with other content that may not be posted here, other sites which have articles and links of interest related to the topic, and always, more resources for knowledge and understanding: all links leading to more links that mirror the web that is humanity..
      It is beneficial..and almost philosophic. And it also does credit to the source where he found the content or the individual who shared the link and requested it to be posted:)

    2. NAND Gate

      Also - it makes it "legal" ;)

    3. Guest

      and the comment forum is great and well organized.
      Vlatko s'got to be proud of his achievment!

    4. PaulGloor

      Only thing I dont like is when he posts an entire series in a single play list.
      I would love to see hyperlinks to each installment in a series so i can watch a bit then come back to it without skipping through hours of previously watched video like DVD scene selection :P

    5. Vlatko

      @Paul Gloor, it takes two seconds to choose which part you want to watch from the playlist.

    6. Vlatko

      I do not upload any of the videos. I only "index" what is already out there @David.

  38. Sobat Yaar

    All of existence is information. An endless stream of it. Never erased.

  39. Gary V

    There is a fine line between genius & insanity

  40. Gary V

    Lol. The Prof. with the baseball cap, WTF does he look like?

    1. Guest

      a young at heart!

    2. Gary V

      Do you want to tell him or me? lol

    3. Guest

      You sure don't look young on your pic! lol

    4. Joseph Ciolino

      He doesn't look like a genius, or a savant. He looks like an ***hole.