practice makes you…

…better (except if you’re practicing all wrong!), not perfect — unless you’ve got talent:

Deliberate practice: Is that all it takes to become an expert?

Twenty years ago, Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (1993) proposed that expert performance reflects a long period of deliberate practice rather than innate ability, or “talent”. Ericsson et al. found that elite musicians had accumulated thousands of hours more deliberate practice than less accomplished musicians, and concluded that their theoretical framework could provide “a sufficient account of the major facts about the nature and scarcity of exceptional performance” (p. 392). The deliberate practice view has since gained popularity as a theoretical account of expert performance, but here we show that deliberate practice is not sufficient to explain individual differences in performance in the two most widely studied domains in expertise research—chess and music. For researchers interested in advancing the science of expert performance, the task now is to develop and rigorously test theories that take into account as many potentially relevant explanatory constructs as possible.

don’t have access, but here are a couple of charts from the supplemental data:

how to get to carnegie hall 01

Fig. 1. Average percentage of variance in chess performance explained by deliberate practice, correcting for measurement error variance. The light gray region represents reliable variance explained by deliberate practice; the dark gray region represents reliable variance not explained by deliberate practice.

how to get to carnegie hall 02

Fig. 3. Average percentage of variance in music performance accounted for by deliberate practice, correcting for measurement error variance. The light gray region represents reliable variance explained by deliberate practice; the dark gray region represents reliable variance not explained by deliberate practice.

(note: comments do not require an email. chess talent.)

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true grit

b*llsh*t.

jonah lehrer says that … well, i’m not sure what he says. he kinda waffles, afaics: innate talents cannot, alone, account for success — one has to have the “grit” to keep on practicing as well — so success (or not) is not just a product of our natures. -??- something like that, anyway.

of course, the question is begged: where does this “grit” come from?

here’s some silliness from his post:

“And this leads me to one of my favorite recent papers, ‘Deliberate Practice Spells Success: Why Grittier Competitors Triumph at the National Spelling Bee.’ The research, published this month in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, was led by Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at Penn. (Anders-Ericsson is senior author.) The psychologists were interested in the set of traits that allowed kids to practice deliberately. Their data set consisted of 190 participants in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a competition that requires thousands of hours of practice. After all, there are no natural born spellers.

no? well, i can tell you about some natural born non-spellers: people with dyslexia. prolly not too many of them winning spelling bees.

and what about people with visual|photographic memories? don’t you think they might have an advantage in a spelling bee? i can tell you the answer to that right now — yes. i don’t have a perfect photographic memory (d*mn!), but i do have a very visual one — and i use it to help me remember how to spell. and i used it a LOT when i used to win all the school spelling bees when i was a kid. (it never occurred to me to go in for spelling bees “professionally” — maybe i just don’t have the “grit.”)

which brings me back to grit. where the h*ck does that come from? mightn’t that be innate? how about the hyperfocusing abilities of aspies? sounds an awful lot like grit to me.

lots of good, sensible comments in response to lehrer’s lame-o post. like:

“Grit has value to the already talented, which motivates them to competitively apply it. The untalented soon realize that grit without a sign of progress is a waste of time. This idea that without grit you would not have talent to begin with simply has the dynamics here bassackwards. Mozart, anyone?”

yeah. can we all just puh-leeeese get over whatever pc hangups we might have and agree that success in a field takes both innate abilities (i.e. talent) AND practice (the driver of which might be innate)? is that really so hard?

previously: you, too, can have perfect pitch!

(note: comments do not require an email.)