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The Expert Mind

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the nurture-wins-this-time dept.

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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395 comments

the same thing (4, Insightful)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917083)

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.

Except that at a young age, are not tremendous ability and precocity the same thing?

Re:the same thing (1)

HillaryWBush (882804) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917097)

Except that at a young age, are not tremendous ability and precocity the same thing?

Um, correct?

Re:the same thing (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917122)

Research that denigrates natural talent seems somewhat to hint of sour eggs...

Re:the same thing (2, Interesting)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917309)

I believe the term is "sour grapes [wikipedia.org] ", but otherwise I think you're right.

Re:the same thing (2, Informative)

okster (913316) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917531)

yeah but sour eggs would be worse

Of course (5, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917547)

The idea that they just worked harder, or rather, better than you is uncomfortable. It means that you're just lazy, don't have the necessary drive or don't know how to train.

It's much easier to believe that they are just innately better and it's not really your fault that you can't reach their level.

 

Missed the queue for the expert mind? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917096)

Never mind, the slashdot hive mind is ready and waiting for you!

Mod points at the ready .....

Woohoo! (-1, Offtopic)

dm97062 (933337) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917098)

With enough effort, I'll be a prodigy at first posting!

Re:Woohoo! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917119)

the problem with those 10 years is, that Mozart took public concerts when he was 6 (to the emperrors btw).And was able to repeat incredible hard compositions.If its not born, then what is it?

Re:Woohoo! (1)

dm97062 (933337) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917251)

I'm curious about this too. But, today (hopefully not to take this way off-topic [I don't want to be a prodigy at that now! :-) ], I mounted my mountain bike to my car in Tualatin, and drove north, and mostly followed the collectors up towards Northwest Portland. I'm again new at mountain biking and need to get my butt in shape, so it's a hobby I've fallen in love with again.

I'm no expert in "back roads" (ie, collectors in this case) but while travelling down a state highway 217 back home, traffic stopped. I'm no expert in direction, but I have travelled along the collectors here enough in a few short years to extimate the best combination. And to prove my lack of total prowess here, I took some roads that allowed me to travel up to 45 MPH, much faster than the highway traffic along 217. I learned when I got home that I made one error that added at least 2 miles to my trip. Was I a complete idiot? No. I just took the roads that felt right. In my estimation I made good time. I probably could have used an expert in the Portland area to tell me whether the route was the best (I didn't have Mapquest, Google Maps, or GPS, mind you). But I didn't do too bad, compared to how I would have done a couple years ago. I would have clung to the Freeways like my life depended on it.

Before reading the summary and (starting to read) the article, I found that I didn't do half bad.

After seeing this article, I realized that if I had spent most of my life learning these "back routes" I would have done pretty darn good. I didn't have a map fully visualized in my mind, but a feeling of the routes. One part of the article sparked interest for me:

"... In 1894 French psychologist Alfred Binet, the co-inventor of the first intelligence test, asked chess masters to describe how they played such games. He began with the hypothesis that they achieved an almost photographic image of the board, but he soon concluded that the visualization was much more abstract. Rather than seeing the knight's mane or the grain of the wood from which it is made, the master calls up only a general knowledge of where the piece stands in relation to other elements of the position. It is the same kind of implicit knowledge that the commuter has of the stops on a subway line...."

If I had to gauge my expertise on the area, I'm still a beginner, despite my years as a driver, and living in this area. But I think the above helps explain quite a bit.

Back to Mozart: How was he capable of touring a big chunk of Europe by ~6 on his talents? I don't think he had photographic memory of the score to play, he probably (even at an early age) had a feeling for each part. I am not a musician, but I bet with enough practice, I could gain a feeling for each piece and play it decently. I am sure Mozart mastered that and was able to give some of the best performances ever.

BTW, I have a friend at work, who, without any further cue than a request for one of many hundreds of songs (e.g. "Hey, play Hot Blooded by Foreigner!," or "Play Take a Picture by Filter!") and early memory of the song to produce it almost flawlessly on a grand piano. I always wondered how he could do it, and I'm starting to feel I understand how now.

Re:Woohoo! (0, Flamebait)

dm97062 (933337) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917349)

Looks like I have the inherent talent of being offtopic, too!

Sorry, but... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917132)

...In my opinion, I just can't see this kind of post getting very far in life.

Partial credit (4, Insightful)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917135)

While I believe, definitely, that it has to take work to master something, and that work is the defining characteristic of a grand master, it's also important to have some inborn ability. You can't be a chess master or genius mathematician or amazing athlete without some genetic preponderance toward intelligence or coordination or speed. This becomes extremely evident in bodybuilding; genetic makeup matters big time. Yes, I realize the article is focused on intellectual pursuits, but the same thing is still true.

Re:Partial credit (5, Interesting)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917165)

You can't be a chess master or genius mathematician or amazing athlete without some genetic preponderance toward intelligence or coordination or speed. This becomes extremely evident in bodybuilding; genetic makeup matters big time. Yes, I realize the article is focused on intellectual pursuits, but the same thing is still true.

So, to argue that intellectual experts are partially born, you compare them to a field where we know that being an expert is mostly born (bodybuilding)?

There are no studies showing a trainer taking a few average joes and getting them into the world championships of bodybuilding. But there are such examples in chess, as TFA states.

I remember learning about the "10-year theory" of genius in a graduate course in psychology (that it takes around 10 years of practice to make an expert, not innate talent). It was portrayed as a 'radical' theory in that it flew in the face of the common belief of innateness. But the evidence does support it.

The one area where the theory wasn't completely fleshed out in TFA, however, was the issue of age. While it is possible that nearly any child can be turned into a chess master with appropriate training and time, it isn't at all clear that the same is true for adults. Whether this is because adults have less time (or motivation), or because they are missing some biological advantage that children have, we don't know. But compare this to language: we know that children learn languages very fast during a 'critical period' of childhood. Children who don't learn a language at that age cannot learn one later in life. So perhaps there is a 'critical period' for being trained to be an expert at chess. We just don't know that yet (or didn't when I was taking the class 4 years ago).

Re:Partial credit (3, Insightful)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917236)

There are no studies showing a trainer taking a few average joes and getting them into the world championships of bodybuilding. But there are such examples in chess, as TFA states.

Chess isn't a good measure either. A COMPUTER can play chess. The rules and strategies are almost all worked out, so it takes only practice to learn them. A better field for this discussion is music - four lifetimes would not suffice to learn all of music theory.

Re:Partial credit (1, Funny)

rs79 (71822) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917290)

"our lifetimes would not suffice to learn all of music theory."

Nonsense. You clearly don't watch enough MTV. You can learn enough to be a gaziilionare - look at them jokers that's the way you do it - in about 2.7 minutes.

Re:Partial credit (4, Insightful)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917291)

Chess isn't a good measure either. A COMPUTER can play chess. The rules and strategies are almost all worked out, so it takes only practice to learn them.

Software chessplayers can beat human ones, but they play completely differently. For example, human chessplayers see only a few moves ahead, while software chessplayers rely more on brute-force search to find good moves.

Computers beat humans at chess not because we understand chess, but because we found a way to make computers do it well, which is different.

Re:Partial credit (4, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917325)

. . .four lifetimes would not suffice to learn all of music theory.

But this is also equally true for everyone; and the one who works at it the most will learn the most.

Of course learning properly also helps. Did you learn theory from a book at the piano/guitar; or did you sit down with a koto (or better yet a gu zheng, more strings) and meter stick and actually try to tune it by physical measurement and by ear?

You'll learn more about temperament that way in a couple of weeks than the average music student learns in a decade by modern methods. It might even disabuse you of the notion that there are "right" and "wrong" notes, merely consonant and dissonant intervals; and even some of those are a matter of cultural training.

KFG

Re:Partial credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917332)

;) Try and make a computer play Go.

We have not really taught a computer to play chess... All it really does it brute force the best move out of all possible moves.

This is nearly impossible in Go. There are simply too many possible combinations of moves.

That doesn't make any sense (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917341)

Chess isn't a good measure either. A COMPUTER can play chess. The rules and strategies are almost all worked out, so it takes only practice to learn them.

You're mixing up different things which have nothing to do with each other.

A computer plays chess in a very different way from a human; it mostly just calculates game state trees to see how good each play is. Humans rely very heavily on intuition, pattern recognition and strategic principles which no computer so far has mastered (and it is doubtful that they will need to master them anyway, since computers are getting so fast at calculating game trees that the era of computer dominance in chess is probably about to begin any year now).

Sometimes, humans rely on calculation of (very reduced) parts of the game tree, but to go from there to saying that a human learning chess is just learning how to follow the rules and strategies of a computer program is invalid reasoning.

Re:Partial credit (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917373)

Chess isn't a good measure either. A COMPUTER can play chess. The rules and strategies are almost all worked out, so it takes only practice to learn them. A better field for this discussion is music - four lifetimes would not suffice to learn all of music theory.
Music isn't a good measure either. A COMPUTER can play music.

There are many studies [americanidol.com] showing trainers taking average joes and getting them into the charts in closer to four weeks than four lifetimes.

Re:Partial credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917430)

American Idol : they don't play music, they just sing !

Learning how to sing : ANYONE IN EARTH CAN DO IT. No, not everyone will have a great voice, a voice we want to hear, but to learn how to sing "right", it's something anyone can do.

Tell me when you see Piano Idol or Violin Idol. This, is impossible.

Re:Partial credit (1)

vonFinkelstien (687265) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917575)

They were talking about MUSIC (and music theory) not pop crap.

Re:Partial credit (1)

annakin (994045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917602)

I agree, music theory is not as open-ended as the OP feels. Most of the medieval era through Mozart fits into two semesters, a third semester should take you through Beethoven, at least as far as the basic theory goes.

They have kids writing symphonies these days, because the construction of these symphonies can be made mechanical once you know the rules. Mozart was famous because he stretched the rules, which is good art.

What modern music would take four lifetimes to master? Classical music was solved early in the century, otherwise you wouldn't have b.s. like Schoenberg in the 1950's. Rock music has been solved for over ten years. Rock is essentially a classical form, so it only took a couple of generations to port that to a new set of instruments.

It's true that a good melody never goes out of style. However, there's only so many songs you can write in atonal harmony, using an alternating rhythm of 11 and 13, before you realize you're running out of ideas. Maybe the next great rock band will only write rhythms using prime numbers? lol. Cue Schoenberg, aka Deep Blue.

Re:Partial credit (3, Insightful)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917382)

When it comes to music, I think it makes a big difference what kind of music it is. If we're talking about just playing written music with accuracy and precision, I'm sure most people could do it by learning the "rules" and practicing a lot. Starting young also helps. But there is a more subjective aspect to music that goes beyond simply being able to manipulate the instrument. Can a musician improvise? Does the musician have innate rhythm? How about "soul?"

It has nothing to do with how long it takes to learn music theory. Give an instrument to two people and teach them how ot play it. Give them, say, a year to learn the basics. They'll probably both be able to play some songs with similar skill. Now, take away their sheet music. Tell them to play something original.. improvise. I guarantee you you'll separate the naturals from the "robots" in no time. THAT is what innate ability is about.

I like your computer comparison. A computer can be programmed to play just about any music you tell it to play. I have yet to hear a computer compose (good) original music, improvise, and adapt to the playing of others in real time. Question is, how does one quantify this so it can be studied?

-matthew

Re:Partial credit (1)

rca66 (818002) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917384)

A COMPUTER can play chess. The rules and strategies are almost all worked out, so it takes only practice to learn them.

The way computers find the moves is completely different from how humans do it. There is absolutely no expertise used in chess programming which had any influence on the world of human chess playing. Of course, the knowledge of rules and strategies in chess has increased a lot over the decades, but still it is not completely solved and it takes more than learning the known strategies to become a world class player.

Re:Partial credit (0)

ooze (307871) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917248)

Now, intellectual ability is very hard to measure. And the only reason chess is so good to measure is, that it is an almost mechanical undetaking (no wonder computers are better at it than humans).

Even the article itself acknowledges that there ar egood learners and bad learners (and what else is that difference than talent).
There is a myriad of menatal disadvantages, like legastenics, dawn syndrome etc. Making experts of them becomes pretty impossible in many cases. And it's safe to say that there are mental advantages just as well.
The decades or centuries of experience of learning in school are a good example that talent matters. If talent didn't matter, all school classes would be on the same level. And don't tell me that homework matters. Sure it helps. But there are those that are top of the class without doing homework. I know, I was one of them. I was even top of the class without going to school half of the time (due to illness).

Re:Partial credit (1)

nephorm (464234) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917260)

we know that children learn languages very fast during a 'critical period' of childhood.

No, we don't know that. Children actually learn language fairly slowly, when you think about it. Most children raised in environments that are saturated with well-spoken english still take 6-7 years before they speak without making many grammatical errors in the course of a conversation.

An adult with some talent at languages, lots of free time, and access to native speakers ought to be able to speak like a reasonably well-educated adult within 2-3 years.

The difference is that children learn language without consciously endeavoring on a learning program. Adults somehow think that an hour course three times a week for two years ought to be the equivalent of 6-7 years of a child practicing and being corrected in his language development on a near constant basis.

Re:Partial credit (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917319)

Children actually learn language fairly slowly, when you think about it. Most children raised in environments that are saturated with well-spoken english still take 6-7 years before they speak without making many grammatical errors in the course of a conversation. An adult with some talent at languages, lots of free time, and access to native speakers ought to be able to speak like a reasonably well-educated adult within 2-3 years.

Well, the issue is that learning a primary language and learning a secondary language are different. My original post was a bit vague. I'll try to elaborate.

What you are saying is that it takes an adult less time to learn a secondary language than for a child to learn a primary one. This is true AFAIK. However,

1. Only children can learn a primary language, during the 'critical period'. Adults who never learned a language never will.
2. Children generally learn secondary languages faster than adults. For example, children taken to a foreign country often learn the local language faster than their parents.

Re:Partial credit (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917315)

Let me try to be a bit radical here:
Maths is simple. Chess is trivial. The complexity of rocket science itself is next to nothing compared to the complexity of language.

The evidence supports this claim: you can learn to play chess and do maths later in your life, and it takes quite a few years to master rocket science... but once you pass the age you were supposed to master at least one language in, you're done; if you haven't learned a language until then, you never will.

Our brains come prepared for certain cognitive functions, one of which is language. Language acquisition itself only begins after certain other cognitive functions are developed enough. It is evolutionary; I'll even say language is what makes us human in the first place - without language, none of the civilisations would have existed, we would be just some kind of hairless apes. We've developed for thousands of years before we got language, and we continue developing. Chess and mathematics have both come much later, much later, yet we seem to be doing rather well.
Of course, the radical claim I've made will be proven false if, for instance, 20k years from now human calculators become common or even predominant. But at least I feel confident in claiming that we haven't had chess or mathematics long enough to have well-prepared areas of the brain just for that purpose. There do seem to exist certain racial or national preferences towards some things, but they still seem to be more in the 'talent' area than in the 'given' area. I really wouldn't dare hypothesize whether it's nature, nurture or both.

This is why I don't like comparing things to language in the way parent poster did; I know of nothing else that cannot be learned later in life, and learned well.

Re:Partial credit (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917374)

This is why I don't like comparing things to language in the way parent poster did; I know of nothing else that cannot be learned later in life, and learned well.

There are some other things. For example, children born blind but that see later on in life (because they had something occluding their vision, that was removed by surgery) have problems with 3D vision. It is said that they are surprised that things 'get larger when they move closer', and IIRC never attain normal functionality. Studies have been done in animals to test this, and they found that indeed there is a 'critical period' for vision (this is much easier to test in animals than to see in humans, since we don't conduct such experiments on humans - the children born blind that see later are 'natural experiments', but not perfect ones).

The 'critical period' aspect of language is probably because of its innateness, and not its complexity. As Chomsky said, "it isn't a coincidence that all children in a household learn a language, while none of the pets do so."

Re:Partial credit (2, Interesting)

annakin (994045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917532)

>As Chomsky said, "it isn't a coincidence that all children in a household learn a language, while none of the pets do so."

Lol, that's a good quote, innate language was one of Chomsky's finer moments. However, I think the pets do learn language, they just don't have tongues. Try meowing back at a cat, and seeing the surprised look on his face when he realizes, because you are imitating him, that you didn't understand what he said :)

If you define language as an audible, message-based communication, then a whole bunch of species have it. What they don't have, as evidenced by research on apes, is grammar.

Re:Partial credit (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917211)

Got any evidence to back up that theory cowboy? Note: a plausible analogy or "seeming likely" are not hallmarks of a credible theory, especially when said theory conflicts with a study done by professionals.

Re:Partial credit (2, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917246)

I tell all my students that there is a difference between talent and skill. Talent is what is innate, skill is what you learn. You can't do anything about talent, but skill is entirely learned behavior, so as long as there is nothing wrong with you you can develop just as much skill as anyone else.

If you're 5'4" you're probably not going to have a career in the NBA, but you can develop just as much skill at basketball as people who do. Maybe you're not "smart" enough to be a chess Grand Master, but a Master is just a matter of doing the work. Busting your ass, or head I guess, although for some there seems to be little difference between the two, which doesn't appear to relate to talent. A lot of "smart" people are dumbasses.

I already posted once about a journalist who went to the Olympic training center at Colorado Springs soon after it opened to do a story on the high tech methods being used to train the national cycling team. The sports scientist was explaining how they could now measure oxygen uptake, which was genetic, and predict the performance of the cyclists. The journalist looking at some charts pointed out one cyclist and asked, "What about him? His oxygen uptake is only average."

The scientist looked at the chart and responded, "Oh, yeah, well, that's Paul Deem. He just wants it more than anyone else."

Think about that one the next time you make yourself excuses for something.

The difference between the very goods and the really greats is generally only a matter of a percent of ability or so, not some huge, honking divide. Whatever "brilliant" performance you see you can, fairly easily get to about 90% of that and with hard work get to within a few percent, which will likely see you in the top percentile of the art/craft.

Graham Hill, two time world driving champion was not considered a great driver by his contemporaries, people like Jim Clark and John Surtees, but he worked at his craft and when the great "talents" failed he was there, in workman like manner, to pick up the victor's laurels.

Coordination in particular is learned behavior. It's simple repetitive patterning. A dog can learn coordination. I suppose a dog has it easy because he doesn't make it impossible for himself by telling himself he can't do it.

I've got a cousin, went to Julliard, piano. They were thrilled to take him in because he knew how to play properly. He had been well trained. They're actually not used to that at Julliard. My cousin was an exception. Typically they have to spend the first year or so in remedial training.

Bear in mind that people who go to Julliard have been, for most part, aimed at that since they were between 5 and 8 years old. Their parents raised them to go to Julliard and did the best they could to get the best training they could find to give their little prince/princess a shot.

And almost all of them need remedial training when they get there.

And there's nothing wrong with the little prince/princess. S/he is the best of the best, that top percentile, or they wouldn't even be auditioning. What has happened is that have been taught badly by the teachers mentioned at the start of the article, who were also the best teachers available.

The average teacher is unspeakably incompetent (especially in piano for some reason), and there's no reason for it really, except, of course, that they themselves were badly trained and pass that on.

If you want to be good at something, I mean really good, do your homework, do the work; and odds are you will be.

In Walden Thoreau notes that it was perfectly well understood at the time that the reason most businessmen fail is not because they have no talent for business, but simply because they fail to do what they themselves know they need to do to succeed. A failure of will, not talent.

They goof off. It's their, ummmmmmmmm, talent. :)

KFG

Re:Partial credit (1)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917301)

"They goof off. It's their, ummmmmmmmm, talent. :)"

I've got to ask, are you a Paul Deem in anything (I sure as hell am not)? I'm betting that with nearly 10,000 posts to Slashdot, posted in a very short amount of time, you probably used to be, but you aren't anymore.

Re:Partial credit (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917364)

I've got to ask, are you a Paul Deem in anything. . .

Posting to Slashdot, obviously.

KFG

Re:Partial credit (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917556)

Can a failure of will be a success of imagination, a complete lack of willingness to do the same boring repetitious task, over and over and ad nauseam.

Marketing might proclaim jock straps etc. as amazing and heroes because it sells product but is it true. Prior to rampant, I am not lying, I am acting, product promotion by jock straps the only quality that was truly respected was good sportsmanship.

Hard work does not guarantee amazing results (2, Insightful)

davros-too (987732) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917276)

While I believe, definitely, that it has to take work to master something, and that work is the defining characteristic of a grand master, it's also important to have some inborn ability.

Yes, that sums it up exactly. Inate ability is essential, as well as hard work over a long time, to achieve true mastery.

The thing that really annoys me is talented people (whether in sports, the arts, science, or any other intellectual area) who say "I got to the top of my chosen field through hard work". My problem is that there is a strong implication in that statement that anyone else could have done so if only they'd chosen to work that hard. This is simply not true. Yes, they have worked hard - but the difference between them and all the other people who worked equally hard is luck - the luck to have been born with more talent/aptitude.

The myth that it 'only' takes hard work to get the most outstanding results is a corrosive and unpleasant put-down for the vast majority of us who toil away for modest results. By all means acknowledge the dedication of those who reach the top, but remember they also partly owe their position to simple luck.

The science says it does. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917452)

I don't think you read the article.

"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. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time."


The key term being "effortful study". The science almost directly contradicts what you said. The difference is the quality of the training. If you're training for hours and producing modest results, take a look at the way you train.

 

Re:The science says it does. (1)

davros-too (987732) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917574)

The key term being "effortful study". The science almost directly contradicts what you said. The difference is the quality of the training. If you're training for hours and producing modest results, take a look at the way you train.

There's no doubt that quality of training counts, so do many other environmental variables. But you've missed my point which is that at the most elite level, it doesn't matter how effectively you train, how much dedication you have, whatever, most people simply cannot reach the top. Factors other than the quality and quantity of training, practice, experience will decide who gets to the top and who does not.

Are you telling me you are at the very top in your chosen field? Or that you could be if only you really tried? Maybe you could be, but I think for the rest of us its realistic to know we can do well but its not realistic to expect to be a superstar.

Re:Partial credit (1)

Don_dumb (927108) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917303)

Absolutely right our genes aren't just there for show.
We were all at school and were shown new sports/skills/concepts at the same time as our classmates, yet we all know that some of us found one, or some of these things easier than others. I can remember our sixth form school rugby team, I had played and trained outside school for a couple of years, yet there were a couple of my friends who just joined the team and just seem to pick up the skills. Conversely I always couldn't understand how some people just didn't get algebra, despite them doing far more homework than me.
There are of course many other factors to the ability of a sportsman such as the will to win, composure under pressure and (especially for something like Rugby) athleticism. These atributes are pretty much irrelevant for Maths but there are I imagine (as I know some) many builders who fail maths and have no understanding of pythagoras and yet only a couple of years later they are constantly putting it into practice, perhaps the difference in the manner of training (real use over abstract) is the difference here. While regular effective practice is essential for sport but there will always be those who have a head start via DNA. Michael Jordan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_jordan [wikipedia.org] , arguably the greatest sportsman was noted for the way he trained and at one point didn't even make his school team, so didn't have much of an edge that his talent may have given him, but being left out of that team has often been cited as his motivation, he started getting up early to train, he worked much harder and that was his edge. A bit of genetics gave him only a chance he had to work for the rest.
Much of this can be reflected in the relative success stories of some schools for some sports/subjects in similar areas, some instituions have long histories of success in one area, as pupils come and go genetics must be irrelevant so the methods used by the teachers and perhaps (for boarding schools) the culture of the school must play a more major part in the development of the individual sportsman rather than genetics.
But basically TFA is mostly stating the obvious, I tried for a couple of years to play the violin, but took two attempts to pass 1st grade and never ever understood time signatures/rythmns, I learned how to use the tool, but could not gain an worthwhile understanding of music.

Read "The origins of exceptional abilities" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917137)

In the early '90-ies Michael J.A. Howe published a book called "The origins of exceptional abilities", which concluded the same by studying the life history of exceptional people like Mozart. Mozart did not write any music worth listening to before after about a decade of hard training. His father made him practice several hours a day from a very young age. Compare that to the "loose your beer belly" gymnastics commercials "five minutes a day for a month for great results", and you understand why Mozart became great!

Re:Read "The origins of exceptional abilities" (2, Insightful)

annakin (994045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917492)

I think the American composer Charles Ives is an even better example, because the training his father gave him reflected very specifically in his later works. His dad was an experimental bandleader, and forced Charles to listen to atonal, semitonal, and overlapping music.

Semitonal and quatertonal music never really caught on, but for Charles Ives it was quite natural, because he was familiar with it as a child. However, overlapping music is an entire industry, we call it deejaying today.

Pain vs. Gain. (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917598)

Compare that to the "loose your beer belly" gymnastics commercials "five minutes a day for a month for great results", and you understand why Mozart became great!

Those things are funny. About the only thing those gadgets do in 20 minutes of exercise per day performed while you sit in front of your TV, occasionally stopping to munch on a super sized McDonalds menu, is calm your conscience. If you want to lose weight you have to exercise and control your diet. Either one on it's own will not do the job well and it will take more than 20 minutes per day. To rephrase a well known American proverb somewhat savagely: "If somebody offers you a lot of gain without any pain they are full of..." how can I phrase this politely? "...something that came out of the south end of a northbound horse." It amazes me that sane well educated and intelligent people fall for these scams, be they legal (such as miracle weight loss programs) or criminal (such as 419 scams).

That explains my innate talent (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917159)

By the tender age of 10, I was regional champion couch potato.

In another 10 years I'll be a world-class Slashdot Humorist. Obviously, I'm still working on that one.

Metatalent? (1)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917161)

I think they're onto something there. Whilst I'm no prodigy, I've been a fairly enthusiastic devilstick juggler for about 12 years now, and probably better than 95% of the others I've met. That said, my skill level probably hasn't changed all that much in the last 5 years or so, since I slacked off on the 'effortful study' phase, which saw me never leaving the house without a set with which to play/practice.

I don't really feel any pressing need to get better at that particular field, but I've been getting more interested in improving my firestaff twirling this summer (southern hemisphere). I might take the articles implied advice and see what sort of results it yields. Granted it's not chess, but I'll see where it takes me.

Re:Metatalent? (1)

UltimApe (991552) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917418)

yaya, devil sticks. I broke one of my handles, so I went around trying to do it with only one. It did wonders for my skill level when coming back to two sticks because I no longer rely on the other to catch a trick. Sometimes a prodigy might only be because they took the problem in a drastically diffrent way.

Re:Metatalent? (5, Insightful)

poliopteragriseoapte (973295) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917520)

I disagree - I believe people can be very different at their talents - the minds of different people can work in very different ways.

No matter how hard I tried, I was always terrible at soccer and at juggling. I just don't have enough control of my body for that. On the other hand, learning mathematics has always been effortless for me, and I can "view" in my head 3 and 4-dimensional functions with ease. Regardless of how hard I try, I am definitely NOT good at picking up the correct accent of foreign languages - even languages that I have been speaking for decades. Other people can sound like native speakers in a couple of years. I spent lots hours trying to learn chess, and just about anybody could defeat me. At Go, in scarcely a few months I became good enough to hold my own with most players in my city.

The belief that "education does all" is the kind of belief you have before you see enough students, and especially, before you have children. After that, you know very well that kids are born with very definite personalities and abilities - you can educate them, but the personality and basic abilities are there from day 1, perhaps not fully expressed, but there.

Education, or training, just feeds the prepared mind or body.

Re:Metatalent? (1)

njdj (458173) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917542)

The belief that "education does all" is the kind of belief you have before you see enough students, and especially, before you have children. After that, you know very well that kids are born with very definite personalities and abilities

Correct, insightful, and an explanation of why so many slashdotters hold that erroneous belief. (Note to moderators: that's not meant to be funny. Mod up the parent to this post, not this one.)

Interesting, but a little one sided (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Interesting, but a little one sided (4, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917256)

I guess spending lots of time playing counts as training. . .

Yes, there's even a word for "lots of time playing." The word is:

"Practice."

You might have heard an aphorism using that word.

I'll bet he wasn't very good at the subjects he ignored at Columbia. There just might be a relationship.

KFG

Uhh, sorta. (5, Insightful)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917173)

You will never find a "master" at what they do that does not practice and have lots of experience. That is, of course, a given. I don't think any one says otherwise - to a large extent the article implies it. No coach thinks raw talent alone will win the olympics, it takes practice, practice, practice, and more practice.

It also requires Chess to be a near perfect look into intellect and ability - the author obviously understands this as roughly half the article is an attemp to prove it. If this is not true then the whole theory falls apart and I do not think enough is shown for this to be true (not being in that field I do not know if it is considered a given, but again I doubt it is. I can not see chess having much bearing to archery).

I can assure you that innate talent exists. It is not hard to find. I have two fairly good archery students - one shoots only the one day of our course and the other shoots at home every day. If hard work and focus was the deciding factor the wrong one is getting much higer scores.

We can all find people in our own schooling that exemplifies this. In science/math courses I did very very little and was generally one of the higer grades. I knew quite a number of people who were obsessed and spent WAY more time than I ever did who never came anywhere close to my ability. I knew people who surpassed me that worked less and some that worked more. Of course I still spent quite a bit of time at it. I could not learn how something worked without reading about it or taking it apart, yet I needed only to do so once or twice. Some could do it hundreds of times and never get it, some would only need to get halfway before they understood it. That's innate talent.

It's so trivial to find people that break this theory I can not see how it is talked about much. Obviously hard work will get you a long ways, pure talent on never using it is horrid, and pure talent with hard work is what makes world champions. I can (and have) practiced enough to be a champion in Archery, I'm nowhere close and I'll never be - I just can not hold the bow steady enough. No amount of practice will overcome it.

Coaches and teachers say this because after running thousands of people through thier programs it is obvious that a thing called "talent" exists.

And, lastly, they gloss over that all of thier examples were considered prodigies even before they invested years and years of hard work, to be a world champion requires both. The study pre-assumes that talent is the same, notes that practice is different so it *must* be the cause (how can you say that with more than one variable?). How about we try and hold everything that affects the outcome constant that we can (practice, initial novice level, user motivation, etc) and see if everyone performs at the same level. I bet they do not. Right now there are too many variables from the study listed to draw any conclusion - talent could very well still play a large role, it has not been ruled out. Just as it is obvious that hard work is needed to be a world champion it should be obvious that not including talent will make talent irrelevant in thier study. Unless you control or adjust for a variable you *can not* make any conclsuion on how much it affects your outcome.

Re:Uhh, sorta. (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917281)

We can all find people in our own schooling that exemplifies this. In science/math courses I did very very little and was generally one of the higer grades. I knew quite a number of people who were obsessed and spent WAY more time than I ever did who never came anywhere close to my ability. I knew people who surpassed me that worked less and some that worked more. Of course I still spent quite a bit of time at it. I could not learn how something worked without reading about it or taking it apart, yet I needed only to do so once or twice. Some could do it hundreds of times and never get it, some would only need to get halfway before they understood it. That's innate talent.

I think that's oversimplifying things a bit. From my experience a huge factor that needs to be taken into account is confidence. Some people approach tasks like these with a feeling, conscious or not, that they're not going to understand it anyway. Others pretty much assume they will, and quite often both groups turn out to be right.

Another factor I noticed in school is the ability to dismiss that which is irrelevant to the task at hand. Who cares why V = I * R? Just fill in the bloody numbers and pass the test. Yet some people would stare blindly at the formula trying to "understand" it. This also ties in to my first point, as it generally happened to the same people that presumed they weren't going to understand it. When necessary they even tried to understand things they didn't have to...

Re:Uhh, sorta. (1)

jazzman251 (887873) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917460)

No coach thinks raw talent alone will win the olympics, it takes practice, practice, practice, and more practice.
 
I think that it does take some raw talent or inate ability in order TO practice. At the end of the day it is practice that gets you somewhere, not talent, but I think that some are more talented at practicing than others.

I think I can...I think I can (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917474)

Thus, motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability in the development of expertise. It is no accident that in music, chess and sports--all domains in which expertise is defined by competitive performance rather than academic credentialing--professionalism has been emerging at ever younger ages, under the ministrations of increasingly dedicated parents and even extended families.

Philip E. Ross, a contributing editor at Scientific American, is a chess player himself and father of Laura Ross, a master who outranks him by 199 points.
Hardly a fair enucleation, but given his pompous expertism and preponderance I can hardly blame myself.

Re:Uhh, sorta. (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917477)

"No coach thinks raw talent alone will win the olympics, it takes practice, practice, practice, and more practice."

Close. Too many people think practice makes perfect, when in reality, most people who do so simply perfect their mistakes.

Re:Uhh, sorta. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917480)

What you're talking about here isn't an inate mental performance advantage but the result of numerous factors, including but not limited to parenting and home teaching, personal confidence, personal interest, academic motivation, and creativity (which again i believe to be a characteristic of personal development).

It makes no sense that a species produces offspring with huge variance in mental ability. If the brain is a highly tuned and developed organ, surely it makes more sense that variance in fundamental neurological performance be small and characterised by slight variance in genetic code. Surely nutrition and active deveopment play a more crucial role in deciding performance differences from one persons brain to another?

I'm not talking about physiological characteristics here, like the ability to hold your muscles still whilst stringing a bow, i'm talking purely neurological. It just doesn't make much sense. If inate ability existed in the way that you suggest, then genius would surely be a factor dependant on the genetic stock of the parents. When was the last time you heard of successful selective breeding to produce genetically superior mind-wizards?

Re:Uhh, sorta. (4, Interesting)

Clovert Agent (87154) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917506)

I can assure you that innate talent exists. It is not hard to find. I have two fairly good archery students - one shoots only the one day of our course and the other shoots at home every day. If hard work and focus was the deciding factor the wrong one is getting much higer scores.

I don't necessarily disagree with you, but it's hard to tell where background stops and talent starts. For example, perhaps your talented student simply had exposure to a range of activities as a child which meant s/he developed better hand/eye coordination - a head start, in other words, which just looks like innate ability.

I imagine "talent" to a degree depends on prediliction. I'm not at all musical, and gave up piano lessons as a child because I just didn't find it fun. Kids who /do/ enjoy it and spend hours and hours practising because it's fun, are obviously getting much more training than those who endure a weekly lesson and do a minimum of practice.

And, of course, what you like probably depends largely on your home environment. So an inclination to develop talent, perhaps, can be instilled from infancy.

None of which precludes the possibility of innate talent, of course, like you described. Some kids really do just pick up a golf club and show a frightening ability to get it right first time. Seems obvious, really: if talent="physiognomy and mental state being just right to start with", then perhaps everyone's got a statistical chance of being naturally good at any given skill.

Re:Uhh, sorta. (3, Informative)

wathiant (968373) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Print Version: 1 page (2, Informative)

ispeters (621097) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917181)

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

superkids (1)

Cartack (628620) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917185)

"must have made an equivalent effort, perhaps by starting earlier and working harder than others"

someone needs to find an example of one of those genius 5 year olds that can play the piano like they were taking lessons in the womb.

The Genius' Expression (4, Interesting)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917189)

The question I have is, had Mozart been taught to write and to write constantly, would he be a famous writer? Or would his interests lie elsewhere and writing simply serve to be a hobby?

I think what seperates genius from someone who is simply "good" at something is a geniuine love for what they do later in life. They tend to be more well-rounded and express themselves through the various mediums, but the true geniuses excel in one or more of these modes of expression. The fact that they're well-versed in some skill just makes it all the more likely they'll end up producing something of great value in that area of the arts or science.

Ability to accept training (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917191)

Theres a fundamental truth different people pick different things up more quickly than others. Some are "naturally" good at math and others at sport (and some at both but not nitting). Not everyone's going to react like Mozart to the same music training.

So if you're good at something from the start you're going to get more positive feedback earlier on and you're going to get further and progress more quickly through the same training. But fundamentally yes both the gifted person and the talentless hack are going to need to be exposed to the same tools, techniques and ideas to progress in anything. Mozart wouldn't have gotten anywhere with the piano and orchestras if he'd grown up in a culture that didn't have pianos and orchestras. With his innate abilities perhaps he'd have been Africa's best drummer or a killer on the diggeri doo instead :-)

Another thing. It's important to do things you're not good at for a couple of reasons. One is that some things you're not good at are fun...go to a karoke bar and you won't see people trying to perfect their world class opera voices. You don't even discover what you like if you don't try and life is there to be embraced and tasted. The other is that not everyone progresses at the same rate. It is possible to spend weeks (but probably not more than a few weeks) and make a breakthrough in understanding that suddenly means you improve dramatically even if you're never going to be world class.

However yes, nothing replaces hard work and training. If you're good at something without these you could be much better with the correct focused training.

Arg (4, Interesting)

hyfe (641811) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917197)

In fact, they appear to be confusing ability with precocity
ARG!

Just as with the nature versus nurture debate, it's not a question of which one it is; but of how much of each one.

Obviously, the surroundings, encouragement, over-stimulation, lack of stimulation etc are going to have an tremendous on a child. Anybobdy saying anything else is a loony.

On the other hand, it's a well known fact among strategy gamers that everybody has, more or less atleast, a limit to how good they get. During 5-6 years of steady play, most people just max at some point, usually after a couple of years and stop becoming better. Be it lack of intelligence, lack of patentience, lack of anal-retentivness, it still happens. They hit their roof.

What this means for nerds... (2, Insightful)

jkrise (535370) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917208)

it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field.

For nerds in Computing and IT, this means a lot. Which programming languages to learn? Which editor to use? Which IDE to get addicted to? All the answers would slant in the direction of Open Source and Free tools. It makes absolutely no sense for an intellectual, one whose primary assets are cervaux, to go in for expertise and proficiency in proprietary stuff.

This will be the reason why "Developers, Developers and more Developers" will simply abandon proprietary IDEs and languages, despite loud calls and offers of money from ... you know who...

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."

After MS-DOS, Microsoft has stopped publishing any meaningful literature on it's products. Hell, it looks like it doesn't want to document it's protocols and interfaces either.

This also explains why Sun atleast makes more noises about going Open Source.... they don't want to be eclipsed into obscurity, a decade from now.

With devleopers moving away in hordes, it would be an uphill task for even a behemoth like Microsoft to survive a decade, let alone stay relevant and contemporary.

Re:What this means for nerds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917375)

All the answers would slant in the direction of Open Source and Free tools.

Judas Priest, you fucking religious kooks see a religious angle to everything. We're talking about whether expertise is innate or learned. Try to follow along.

Re:What this means for nerds... (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917469)

We're talking about whether expertise is innate or learned.

The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that experts are made, not born.

You have the answer right there in the summary, even without reading TFA.

Try to follow along.

That's exactly what I'm suggesting nerds ought to be doing. Instead of a mere theoretical discussion on the topic, nerds would be better off focussing on technologies that would be available and relevant over a decade atleast. Hence the choice of Open Source tools.

conform, obey, or not be with us (0, Offtopic)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917212)

There has been a big change in the state of "employment" in the past 10 years. Previously, you went to work, 8-9 AM and and left at 5-6 PM, after that, you didn't belong to the company. You could party, short coke, smoke dope, drink till you got ill, but as long as it didn't affect your standing or performance at work, they didn't care. I'm, not saying that drug use is good or acceptable, but it was YOUR time. Now you are being evaluated for life-style choices such as over consumption of (food), tobacco, hazardous activities and god knows what else. When this happens, we lose freedom, to snort coke, but also to jump out of a plane, or climb a rock wall. Employees have just become assets on the bottom line, to be evaluated much like a piece of machinery.
JimD.

Re:conform, obey, or not be with us (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917226)

Wow, really went off topic, the point was forcing someone to produce can get superior results, with a decrease in their personal life. haha

Re:conform, obey, or not be with us (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917293)

When Apple announced their Mac mini last week for US$499, it caught my eye. Wanting to buy/build a small PC for my already cramped breakfast bar, I started pricing out similar PC hardware. The results startled me. It was very difficult to price a PC as small (6.5" x 6.5" x 2") as the Mac mini with comparable equipment cheaper than the Mac mini. Indeed, most of the configurations I found were more than the humble $499 of the Mac, often much more. To match price I often had to configure with a much bigger shuttle-style case. What computers are currently on the market to compete with this? When my wife asks for the 'cute little Mac', what PC can I buy instead that will take up as little space and do as much for the same price (or less)?

Re:conform, obey, or not be with us (1)

James Youngman (3732) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917448)

My god, what kind of hell-hole do you work in? I've never worked any place like that.

Typical wooly thinking (1)

miketheanimal (914328) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917213)

OK, so I've not read the whole of the article but thos looks like typical wooly thinking:

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 increased after Mozart's father did the equivalent two centuries earlier

Nobody (so far as I know) is saying that geniuses pop into existance fully formed and with no effort on their part. But the above statement is perfectly consistent with the idea that some people are born with some inate ability that allows the possibility of genius, but then require support or training or whatever to realise that genius. If Polgar's book was good (I presume it was) then it opened the way for a bunch of people who's ability would otherwise never be realised. Ditto whatever Mozart's father did.

Childhood surroundings (1)

PrayingWolf (818869) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917216)

If hard work and training is the key, then your childhood home and other surroundings play a major part by allowing and motivating whatever you are doing. Also, parents can provide material for a child to build on so that learning new things is easier (chunking theory, from the article). This is a form of doing some of the work of learning on the child's behalf... and "success builds on success" (quote from the article)
Maybe "being born into experthood" is still effectively what happens in many cases, through being born into a family in which you are helped to grow in a healty way.
In other words, what counts, is that practices (good or bad) are transmitted from generation to generation.

Just another way to look at the same thing. Now I'm going back to work.

Re:Childhood surroundings (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917360)

A friend of mine recently mentioned Reggio kindergartens (since she only mentioned them, it's just a wild-ass guess at the spelling) which encourage children to practically build their own play area and discover and learn quite a lot in the process; supposedly pre-school children can have the grasp of physics of a 14-year-old. I haven't read into it much yet, and I doubt I'll be able to find or pay for one when I have kids, but you never know...

Anyway, to me it proves that while talent does exist, our education systems - from kindergarten on - are definitely misusing it. If they even succeed in recognizing it.

As a future educator, I could cry at the sight of all the talent wasted in the outdated education systems. And with the nearly-global trend of democracy in schools and school systems, with everyone and their dog giving opinions on what children should and - more pointedly - should not learn, I don't see much chance for improvement.

Re:Childhood surroundings (1)

annakin (994045) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917455)

>supposedly pre-school children can have the grasp of physics of a 14-year-old.

Mmm, I wonder about this. If preschool children are doing physics at a 9th or 10th grade level (nearly Advanced Placement), does this mean they get to graduate preschool and go get a job and an apartment?

Or is there something else we're supposed to be teaching kids besides Greek symbols?

Ever wonder why so many people have "Autism Awareness" magnets on the back of their cars? I like that new show Eureka on sci-fi channel, but their utopian vision of child prodigies is a nightmare to me.

I was shocked... (1)

70Bang (805280) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917220)


...this was accepted for publishing or posting.

The basis of the article threads itself into and througout chess, and whilst I have a fondness for it, it cannot be the only form of being an expert, mental prowess, etc., can it?

If it had been "The Expert Chess Mind", that would be a different thing altogether.

I'd expected more until I realized the cover picture depicted the meat of the article.

I haven't renewed my subscription yet, but if it had come under the label of a subscription, I'd have asked for an extension to compensate for an inferior issue.

This covers a lot of ground. My parents bought a subscription for me when I was eight or nine and I'd borrow [older] copies from the library to have something to read when sitting in the back row of boring classes.

I don't remember having felt this way about any other issues.

I am, however, looking forward to the annual "single-topic" September issue.

Process of Mastery? (1)

musonica (949257) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917228)

I've always believed that dedicated work is important along with learning better methodologies and a positive mental approach. Unless someone has a passionate belief in themselves and can immerse themselves in their field they will find it extremely difficult to master anything. Genetics does play some part in this as well, but there are many cases of people overcoming great obstacles (such as Django Reinhardt, the great gypsy guitarist that lost full use of his fretting hand after a serious accident).

Some people do have natural ability, and some find things difficult at first, but it is often the frustrated ones that delve more deeply into the topic and can become as good or better than those who find it easy. Traditionally In Japan they say it takes 20 years to become a master, something which in the west seems to have been downgraded to 3 or so years. In the case of music, only when technique / performance (and theory) is second nature you can focus on the essence, and surf the waves of inspiration and expression.

Nature vs. nurture redux (4, Interesting)

yusing (216625) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917243)

Of course "It takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field."

In music for example, certainly Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Berlioz had to work hard to learn their craft, with some of the best teachers.

Nonetheless, most people would not benefit from that tutelage, because they would be unable to grasp what was important and what was not. A work of genius is not the result of privilege, but of someone whose innate ability to absorb, digest, and then apply in strikingly original ways are simply beyond the grasp of most of us.

The answer to the question of nature vs. nurture is that both are necessary. A genius feral child will not recreate social skills alone. Nor will a privileged imbecile be able to govern a nation.

Re:Nature vs. nurture redux (5, Funny)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917459)

"Nor will a privileged imbecile be able to govern a nation."

We're doing the case study on that right now...

Re:Nature vs. nurture redux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917473)

Nor will a privileged imbecile be able to govern a nation.

heh heh heh...

Formal study vs. Hard Work (4, Insightful)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917327)

This article is going to bring up the subject of formal study vs. hard work. It's very simple: You will get nowhere without hard work. But you will go farther and faster with formal study.

Example: Dizzy Gillespie was an amazing trumpet player, but the way he played was all wrong. Does this mean that our idea of the "right" way to play is wrong? No; Dizzy succeeded despite playing the wrong way, simply because he practiced so goddamned hard. But if you want to learn to play the trumpet, should you just shirk all advice and just practice? Of course not. You'll be a better player if you don't have obstacles - and the "right" way is "right" because it has fewer obstacles. Just don't think you can relax, because you'll get blown away by those who are working hard.

Now take for example the computer programmer. The computer programmer who studies on his own not only has to figure out what is going on from scratch (this is actually beneficial), but he has has to figure out what to study. An education in computer science will prepare this programmer for that. But all too often the computer programmer with an education uses this as a crutch - they soon become stagnant.

FAQ
Can you succeed without working hard? No.
So, do you need education? Maybe not, but it helps.
Would you be better at what you want to do if you have education? Undoubtedly.

practice makes it perfect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917342)

practice makes it perfect, practice makes it perfect, practice makes it perfect,practice makes it perfect .......

Genius vs. Expert (4, Interesting)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917346)

Mozart wrote his first symphony (and not some half-assed attempt) before he was ten years old. So unless he received training while still a sperm, I think it's safe to chalk that case up to something other than ten years of hard work. Of course we're talking about people operating at the genius level, not just the expert level. Anyone of sufficient intelligence can become an expert at whatever they work at. I like the quote that I read in a Feynman book a while back as I think it sums it up fairly well:

"There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre." - Mark Kac
 

I call BS. (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917351)

Whoever posted this article probably never met anyone who can't sing, or who had formal training and still can't sing, or those who think they can sing but it's way off, or in my sister's case, can sing, but in a different key eventhough she hears the song at the same time in karaoke.

What I meant by "can't sing" isn't the inability to give a tonal vocal jibjab, but that no matter how hard they try, can't really grasp the trick to singing (ignoring the breathing factor already here). But at the same time there're those who never had formal music training and can sing perfectly well on their first try (first poke at karaoke).

I've also found that those who can't sing usually can't whistle. As whistling is like blowing with a specific vocal cord position.

And this article's telling me, if my sister goes thru the same training I did (pretty shitty, 2 years of highschool band, 1 year in choir and that's it), she'll be singing like me. I don't chink so.

Re:I call BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917488)

I'd like a second opinion, do you have your sister's cell number to hand?

Re:I call BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917502)

Please read the article. He talks of mental ability, not physiological.

I call double BS on you good sir.

What about things that can't be taught? (1, Flamebait)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917423)

Question: If I learn the rules of baseball until I can chant them in my sleep, including the current stats on all current players and teams, what is my skill on the field?

Answer: Who the hell knows.

Or how about creative expression? How many years do I have to study Picasso to become a leading force in a revolutionary new art movement?

What about personality? How long do I have to intern with Bill Gates to become a billionaire?

Using chess is an awful example because it's a small closed system with a simple set of rules. Skills for chess are roughly in the same category as "factory worker" where if you push button A it does thing B.

Re:What about things that can't be taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917562)

Skills for chess are roughly in the same category as "factory worker" where if you push button A it does thing B.

I deduce that you can't play chess at better than beginner level.

Re:What about things that can't be taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917589)

And if I learn the alphabet really really well, what is my skill in writing novels?

What a load of crap (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917434)

So, there basically trying to say that someone with Dyslexia only has Dyslexia because they haven't trained hard enough even though it runs in famalies.

There also trying to say that someone who has always had a low IQ can become an expert if they spend ten years in the field.

Given the number of things I cannot do even though I have tried as hard or harder that most people and compairing them to the things I can do and always have been able to do without even thinking about them I'd say this artical is a load of crap.

Mozart... (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917440)

...didn't read a book. So it makes no sense to say that after him, and because of books about him, people got better and therefore experts are made, and not born, because clearly some experts ARE born, and they're the ones that are more interesting to read about. Sure, there are loads of good programmers, musicians etc, but it's obvious that you can become one of those by learning, practise, reading etc, but to me it's more fascinating to discover about how 5 year olds tour europe performing piano recitals.

SOCIALIST lies, IQ is genetic! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917456)

SOCIALIST lies, IQ is genetic!

This has been shown in hundreds of research studies since the 1950's

socialist accept that athletes can be born, but not IQ?

lies!

Re:SOCIALIST lies, IQ is genetic! (3, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917476)

That's strange, I always thought capatilist retoric was that we are all born equal so all have an equal chance in life.

Socilist retoric is that we are all born differerent but should be treated equal so those with more tallent should support those with lesser tallent because it's not the fault of those with lesser tallent that they cannot do so well.

How much of a role does time and place play (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917467)

Bach, Beethoven, Motzart, and many others lived in roughly the same time period(granted Bach died before the other 2 were born) and all lived in roughly the same area of the world. How much effect did the setting have on their works? If you took Motzart out of 18th century Vienna and put him in 19th century Argentina, even with training, would he have gone on to create such brilliant classical works? Maybe he would have been a musician in another genre, maybe even after death nobody would have noticed his work because he wasn't creating the "in" music at the "in" time at the "in" place.

Things to ponder I guess....

Effortless Mastery (2, Interesting)

jazzman251 (887873) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917513)

There is a book out called Effortless Mastery and It's written by jazz pianist Kenny Werner. A very good read for anybody, not just musicians. I highly recommend it if this topic interests you.

From Amazon [amazon.com]
"Werner, a masterful jazz pianist in his own right, uses his own life story and experiences to explore the barriers to creativity and mastery of music, and in the process reveals that 'Mastery is available to everyone,' providing practical, detailed ways to move towards greater confidence and proficiency in any endeavor. While Werner is a musician, the concepts presented are for every profession or life-style where there is a need for free-flowing, effortless thinking."

Mozart was a writer (1)

rishistar (662278) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917555)

I believe in the context of being able to play instruments TFA has a point about how good you appear being related to how long you've been practising.

Mozart was remembered for being a great creator - that kind of insight cannot be given by training alone, though it *usually* does help to know the ground rules of whatever field you are in to be able to be a visionary in it.

In music at least, talent coutns (3, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#15917569)

I played trombone for about 10 years, starting in elementary school ending in university, and I observed that while hard work and study were a major, major factor in how good you were, talent was necessary. You had to have a certian "it". I can't put a name to it or tell you how to check, but it had to be there if you were ever to be really good. I think it most likely had to do with a talent in hearing music. I could tell you, just by listening to the tone (sound charestic) of a player if they had "it" or not.

If they did, they had the potential to be quite good. How good they were depended in a large way on how hard they worked, but that "it" allowed for them to do it. If they didn't, no amount of work could make up for it. There was just a wall that they could not surpass with any amount of effort.

In highschool I saw this in quite a pronounced fashion. I had "it", something I discovered in 7th grade. I could produce a tone that sounded good, sounded like the kind of sound professionals get. I don't mean I sounded that good, but I mean it was the same kind of sound. My 2nd chair player didn't have "it". His tone was blatty and sounded more akin to a beginner. I felt really sorry for the guy because he busted his ass. I kinda slacked off, as I like to do, and so while I was good I wasn't a star or anything. I'm sure I could have been much better if I'd been willing to commit more time to it (though in retrospect I spent quite a bit of time on it).

He worked his ASS off. I mean I couldn't believe how much he practised, at least 2 hours a night usually more. He really, really wanted to be better, and in particular wanted to be better than me. He just couldn't do it though. The technical aspects he could get down wutie well through all the repetition but the musicality never came. He had private teachers try to help, I tried to help, but it didn't do any good. He lacked "it", he lacked the talent to ever really get good.

Same thing in university. There was a hard cutoff in trombones at the 4th chair. The first 4 all had "it", we all sounded good. Differeing skills of course, but all sounded as a trombone should. The next 5, nope. It was just painfully obvious. I could switch with the and 2nd, 3rd, or 4th chairs on a solo or something and it would work. They didn't sound just like me, but they sounded right. However sub in any of the others and man, you'd notice straight off.

I think it may have something to do with listening ability. There are things relating to that which can't be trained, like perfect pitch (the ability to identify the absolute pitch of a note with no context). It's not perfect pitch that is required (I don't have perfect pitch) but perhaps something like it.

Either way, I certianly don't disagree that being proficiten/an expert/a master requires a hell of a lot of work, in think in many cases talent is necessary, but not sufficient, condition. Maybe it's genetic, maybe it's something that can only be learned during a critical developmental phase, either way if you don't have it, you'll never be great, no matter how hard you try.

Mediocre "genius" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15917601)

"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."

Sure, but there's only one Mozart, as there is only one Kasparov or Einstein or Coltrane or Newton or Cervantes or Picasso, who incidentally said 90% of his work was sweat and the rest, inspiration. Call it inspiration, call it genetic predisposition, call it whatever you want, but the other 10% is out of all the trained geniuses reach.
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