The Hidden Talents Approach: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges

Willem E. Frankenhuis, Ethan S. Young, Bruce J. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


It is well established that people living in adverse conditions tend to score lower on a variety of social and cognitive tests. However, recent research shows that people may also develop ‘hidden talents’, that is, mental abilities that are enhanced through adversity. The hidden talents program sets out to document these abilities, their development, and their manifestations in different contexts. Although this approach has led to new insights and findings, it also comes with theoretical and methodological challenges. Here, we discuss six of these challenges. We conclude that the hidden talents approach is promising, but there is much scope for refining ideas and testing assumptions. We discuss our goal to advance this research program with integrity despite the current incentives in science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-581
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • adaptation
  • adversity
  • cognitive abilities
  • development
  • formal modeling
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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