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Conducting Business

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Are Virtuosos Born or Bred? New Paper Renews Debate Over Practice

6 days ago16 minutes

For the past 20 years, some psychologists have made an appealing argument: that it's possible to achieve success or expertise in your craft by putting in lots of practice time. It's a nice idea: work hard enough and you have a shot at becoming, say, a great violinist. But this is an active debate among psychologists, and a new statistical analysis of 88 studies suggests that the exact opposite is true: that success mostly reflects other factors, like innate talent.The new meta-analysis finds that practice only accounts for only about 12 percent of performance differences across all areas of expertise. For games like chess and scrabble, practice mattered the most (26 percent). In music, it was less important (21 percent). In sports, it accounted for 18 percent and in education, four percent.This week's podcast features a debate over the findings of the new meta-analysis. Our guests are:Dr. Brooke Macnamara, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University and one of the three co-authors of the analysis. The paper appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.Dr. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University. He authored a pivotal 1993 study which found that made a strong case for the importance of practice in determining success. It has been featured in best-selling books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and David Shenk’s The Genius in All of Us.Segment Highlights:Macnamara:"We concluded that deliberate practice is undeniably important – it's just not as important as proponents of the deliberate practice view have claimed." (Deliberate practice is high-quality practice, and often refers to one-on-one lessons in which a teacher pushes a student continually.) "Basic cognitive abilities, other types of experience such as competition experience,

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