HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "The gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — is sometimes referred to as the 'orphan ability' for its tendency to go undetected. Now Douglas Quenqua reports that according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, spatial ability may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields. 'Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don't capture with traditional measures (PDF) used in educational selection,' says David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. 'We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.' Spatial ability can be best defined as the ability to 'generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images.' Some examples of great inventors who have used their high levels of spatial ability to innovate include James Watt, who is known for improving the steam engine, and James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. Nikola Tesla, who provided the basis for alternating current (AC) power systems, is said (or fabled) to have been able to visualize an entire working engine in his mind and be able to test each part over time to see what would break first. Testing spatial aptitude is not particularly difficult but is simply not part of standardized testing because it is considered a cognitive function — the realm of I.Q. and intelligence tests — and is not typically a skill taught in school. 'It's not like math or English, it's not part of an academic curriculum,' says Dr. David Geary. 'It's more of a basic competence. For that reason it just wasn't on people's minds when developing these tests.'"