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The Expert Mind 395

Vicissidude writes "Teachers in sports, music, and other fields tend to believe that talent matters and that they know it when they see it. In fact, they appear to be confusing ability with precocity. There is usually no way to tell, from a recital alone, whether a young violinist's extraordinary performance stems from innate ability or from years of Suzuki-style training. The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born. In fact, it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field. Even child prodigies, such as Gauss in mathematics, Mozart in music, and Bobby Fischer in chess, must have made an equivalent effort, perhaps by starting earlier and working harder than others. It is no coincidence that the incidence of chess prodigies multiplied after László Polgár published a book on chess education. The number of musical prodigies underwent a similar increase after Mozart's father did the equivalent two centuries earlier."
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The Expert Mind

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  • Re:the same thing (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @02:33AM (#15917122)
    Research that denigrates natural talent seems somewhat to hint of sour eggs...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @02:48AM (#15917162)
    The premise:
    Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but "effortful study," which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence.
    The conclusion:
    Capablanca, regarded to this day as the greatest "natural" chess player, boasted that he never studied the game. In fact, he flunked out of Columbia University in part because he spent so much time playing chess. His famously quick apprehension was a product of all his training, not a substitute for it.
    So, I guess spending lots of time playing counts as training when it supports your predetermined conclusions.
  • by ispeters ( 621097 ) <.ispeters. .at.> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @02:57AM (#15917181)

    In case anyone else prefers one, nearly ad-free, page [] over 6 skinny pages full of blinky bits.

  • Re:the same thing (Score:2, Informative)

    by okster ( 913316 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:22AM (#15917531)
    yeah but sour eggs would be worse
  • Re:Uhh, sorta. (Score:2, Informative)

    by wathiant ( 968373 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @05:23AM (#15917534)
    What you are missing here is that there is usually a right way and a wrong way to practice. The right way is usually to actively search for your boundaries, actively analyze what the problem is and then work on that specific problem for a few hours or so. Most people think that 'practice makes perfect'. But as the article states (the golf example), most people lose their will to spend time to really improve when they reach the level of their rivals. I think that what is called 'innate talent' is actually mostly 'the ability to recognize your weaknesses and the interest/willpower to improve them' in some field.
  • Re:Partial credit (Score:3, Informative)

    by more ( 452266 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @10:12AM (#15918936)
    Dissonance and consonance are not as much cultural. It is more of a elastoviscosic property of the basilar membrane (in human inner ear). This was found out already by Plomp and Levelt in 1960's, but is only now making its way to music theory.
  • Re:Of course (Score:3, Informative)

    by yali ( 209015 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @01:30PM (#15920937)

    Your view of things agrees with some of the available resesarch [] on who tends to be more successful:

    ...Students' implicit beliefs about the nature of intelligence have a significant impact on the way they approach challenging intellectual tasks: Students who view their intelligence as an unchangeable internal characteristic tend to shy away from academic challenges, whereas students who believe that their intelligence can be increased through effort and persistence seek them out.
  • Re:Give me a break (Score:2, Informative)

    by davros-too ( 987732 ) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @07:10PM (#15923386) Homepage
    "If you think you can, you might, if you think you can't, you never will." "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." - Thomas Edison "I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious." --Albert Einstein

    These quotes are all true (Einstein is making a very valid point about his methods). I'll try making my point in a different way - the quotes are from people who *also* had the massive talent. Which they naturally are modest about. In some ways, yes, these are people like you and me. But on the other hand they have talent which you or I do not. Let me take Einstein as an example because I am a physicist. I have put in a heck of a lot of work and I have enough talent to have a decent career in this field. But could I get to Einstein's level? No. Nor could I get to the level of the people one level down from that. With equal levels of effort and dedication, they just leave me behind. To talk to, as I have, someone like Neville Mott and see how quickly they grasp new ideas that I have spent years on is to realise that there is such a thing as talent. I have a some, but others have more.

    This isn't a negative thing, nor is it a cop out. I still am happy and enjoy working hard to get many satisfying results. I just hate the idea that the fact I'm not in the running for a nobel prize and never will be is taken by so many people as equivalent to me not being as hard-working as those who are in the running.

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming