We all like to be smart, or at least to be considered smart. However, some claim that being the smartest person in the room may not be so good. But it’s not so good to get stuck in a room “brimming with brainpower” either.

So where should we be in terms of our smarts to feel just fine? Let’s start with the theory of relative deprivation.

Check out: When Not Being the Smartest Is an Advantage





  • brim – fill or be full to the point of overflowing 
  • detrimental – tending to cause harm 
  • obstacle – a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress 
  • deprive – deny (a person or place) the possession or use of something
  • at odds – in conflict or at variance
  • debunk – expose the falseness or hollowness of (a myth, idea, or belief)


Think about it

Answer the questions below.

  • Does Malcolm Gladwell think that a room full of brainpower may be badly influencing your sense of achievement?
  • What is relative deprivation?
  • How does relative deprivation work in the classroom setting?
  • What cost does going to elite schools have? 

Practice makes perfect

In the sentences below replace the words and phrases in bold with the expressions from the original text.

  • But is a room that is full of brainpower harmful to your own achievement?
  • In the book, entitled David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants which arrived in the shops Tuesday [. . .]
  • Relative deprivation is an idea that says that when we make judgments about ourselves, we judge ourselves in relation to our immediate peers — people like us in the same room as us — not to the entire world.
  • Not many students from the bottom half of their class at Harvard pursued an education in science or math.
  • Throughout the book, Gladwell inspects and attempts to debunk commonly held beliefs about what it really takes to tackle problems and rise to the top.


Fill in the blank spaces with the missing letters.

“Going to elite schools in _ _ h _ r words has a cost,” Gladwell said. “If you’re not going to be in the top half of the class, you’re going to _ _n the risk of m_ _ t _ _ _ _ ly thinking that you are not a good student, of coming to a c _ _ _ l _ _ _ o n about your own abilities that’s at _dd_ with reality.


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