Jonathan Wai, Ph.D.

Jonathan Wai, Ph.D.

Jonathan Wai, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program and a visiting researcher at Case Western Reserve University.  He did his postdoctoral work at Duke University, holds a doctorate from Vanderbilt University, and graduated from Claremont McKenna College.

He researches and writes about the development of talent, broadly conceived, and its impact on society.  His interests focus on the role of cognitive abilities, education, and other factors that contribute to the development of expertise in education, occupation, and innovation.  Additionally, he is interested in policy implications of developing (or failing to develop) talent, and connecting his work with the larger global conversation.

Dr. Wai's work has started international conversations, and has been covered in Science, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CNBC, Financial Times, The Economist, Scientific American, Wired, Education Week, and newspapers all over the world.  In addition to academic publications, his public writing has appeared in Psychology Today, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Education Week, NPR, and many others.  He is a contributing writer to Psychology Today, Business Insider, Quartz, and others, where his ideas have reached millions of people.

His work has won multiple international Mensa Awards for Research Excellence. He has served on the board of directors of the MATHCOUNTS Foundation.  He lives with his wife, son, dog, and two cats.  You can find his CV here.

Representative Academic Articles

Wai, J. (2014). Investigating the world's rich and powerful: Education, cognitive ability, and sex differences. Intelligence, 46, 54-72. CNBC, Inc.

Wai, J. (2014). What does it mean to be an expert? Intelligence, 45, 122-123.

Wai, J. (2014). Experts are born, then made: Combining prospective and retrospective longitudinal data shows that cognitive ability matters. Intelligence, 45, 74-80. Business Insider, MIT Sloan Analytics Conference

Wai, J. (2013). Investigating America’s elite: Cognitive ability, education, and sex differences. Intelligence, 41, 203-211. CNBC, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal

Wai, J., Putallaz, M., & Makel, M. C. (2012). Studying intellectual outliers: Are there sex differences, and are the smart getting smarter? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 382-390. The Economist

Wai, J., & Putallaz, M. (2011). The Flynn effect puzzle: A 30-year examination from the right tail of the ability distribution provides some missing pieces. Intelligence, 39, 443-455. Wired, Scientific American

Wai, J., Cacchio, M., Putallaz, M., & Makel, M. C. (2010). Sex differences in the right tail of cognitive abilities: A 30-year examination. Intelligence, 38, 412-423. New York Times

Wai, J., Lubinski, D., Benbow, C. P., & Steiger, J. H. (2010). Accomplishment in science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and its relation to STEM educational dose: A 25-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 860-871. Education Week, NPR

Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2009). Spatial ability for STEM domains: Aligning over fifty years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 817-835. Scientific American, NPR, Science

Halpern, D. F., & Wai, J. (2007). The world of competitive Scrabble: Novice and expert differences in visuospatial and verbal abilities. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 13, 79-94. New Republic

Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2005). Creativity and occupational accomplishments among intellectually precocious youths: An age 13 to age 33 longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 484-492. New York Times, Science

Representative Articles/Op-eds For The Public Press

June, 2014: A Shocking Number of The World's Rich and Powerful Attended Elite CollegesBusiness Insider, Inc.

June, 2014: Sorry Jay Mathews, Gifted Education MattersPsychology Today

May, 2014: It Turns Out That Smart People Do Run The USBusiness Insider

April, 2014: More Gifted Students: Harder To Get Into The Ivies?Business Insider, Psychology Today

April, 2014: Standardized Tests: Are We Shooting At The Messenger?Psychology Today

March, 2014: One Size Does Not Fit All: The Need For Variety In LearningNPR Mindshift

March, 2014: Hire Like Google? For Most Companies, That's A Bad IdeaLos Angeles Times (with Christopher Chabris)

February, 2014: 8 Simple Strategies To Improve Your InnovationBusiness Insider, Psychology Today

January, 2014: The Best Business Schools Based On GMAT ScoresQuartz

January, 2014: Here Are 97 Books, Articles, And Movies That Will Make You SmarterBusiness Insider, Psychology Today

January, 2014: Even As A Child, Jeff Bezos Was A Data-Obsessed, Workaholic GeniusQuartz

November, 2013: Nine Ways To Become Smarter Than You ThinkPsychology Today, Business Insider

November, 2013: Who's Smarter? Republicans And Democrats In CongressPsychology Today

October, 2013: The 25 Countries With The Most BrainpowerBusiness Insider (with Max Nisen), follow up on Psychology Today: What's The Smartest Country In The World?

September, 2013: The 25 Smartest Colleges In AmericaBusiness Insider, Yahoo! [full rankings here] (with Max Nisen)

July, 2013: Why We Need To Value Students’ Spatial Creativity – NPR Mindshift, Quartz

June, 2013: The Art Of Communicating Science - Psychology Today

February, 2013: Why We Need The Math Police – Education Week (with Lou DiGioia)

February, 2013: Jack Andraka Is Not An Ordinary Kid - Psychology Today

February, 2013: Do Gifted Kids Want To Be A Scientific Genius Today? - Psychology Today

December, 2012: How Khan Academy Will Help Find The Next Einstein - Psychology Today

November, 2012: The US Needs To Focus Its Educational Efforts On Talented Americans - TechCrunch

October, 2012: Smart People Really Do Rule The World – Business Insider

October, 2012: Don’t Believe The Myth Of The Billionaire College Dropout – Business Insider

September, 2012: The Scary Smart Are The Scary Rich – Forbes

July, 2012: Of Brainiacs And Billionaires – Psychology Today

July, 2012: The SAT Needs To Be Harder – Education Week [ungated version here]

June, 2012: Chess Concepts Peter Thiel Used To Become A Billionaire – Business Insider, Inc., Yahoo!

June, 2012: Why The Smartest People Talk The Least – Business Insider

March, 2012: Why Is It Socially Acceptable To Be Bad At Math? – Psychology Today

February, 2012: Could Brain Imaging Replace The SAT? – Psychology Today

November, 2011: Sorry Talented, Striving Matters – Psychology Today

August, 2011: How Brainy Is Your Major? – Psychology Today

June, 2011: How Do You Measure An Intellectual Giant? – Psychology Today

April, 2011: If You Are Creative, Are You Also Intelligent? – Psychology Today

March, 2011: America’s Got Talent – Psychology Today

March, 2011: Will We Ever Find The Next Einstein? – Psychology Today

Representative Interviews

June, 2014: Reinventing The Boundaries of Science Journalism: Thomas Lin – Psychology Today

December 2013: We Are Not As Smart As We Think: Tyler Cowen – Psychology Today

November, 2013: Does Technology Make Us Smarter?: Clive Thompson – Psychology Today

September, 2013: The Geography of Creativity: Enrico Moretti – Psychology Today

September, 2013: The Sports Gene: David Epstein – Psychology Today

February, 2013: How To Live A Meaningful Life: Marty Nemko – Psychology Today

December, 2012: Khan Academy And The Next Einstein: Sal Khan – Psychology Today

October, 2012: Talent In Education And Business: Norman Augustine – Business Insider

August, 2012: Finding The Next Carl Sagan: Adam Frank – Psychology Today

June, 2012: Science Writing Can Save Lives: Tim Folger – Psychology Today

January, 2012: The Educational World Is Flat: Tom Vander Ark – Psychology Today

December, 2011: A Polymath Physicist: Steve Hsu – Psychology Today

June, 2011: The Magic of Great Literature: James Flynn – Psychology Today

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Author of

Finding the Next Einstein

Finding the Next Einstein: Why Smart is Relative discusses research findings and ideas that touch upon multiple issues surrounding the identification and development of talent, and explores how these issues might be relevant to what's going on in the world.