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Practice Makes Perfect? Not So Much!

Practice dancingA new study reveals that a copious amount of practice is not enough to master a complex skill. Besides, intelligence, the age at which people begin the particular activity as well as working memory capacity are all involved in this process.

A new study turns out that the old adage “practice makes perfect” might be overblown. Zach Hambrick at Michigan State University finds that a copious amount of practice is not sufficient to explain why people differ in level of skills in two widely studied activities, music and chess.

In another word, it requires more than hard work to be an expert. In Hambrick’s paper published in the journal Intelligence, he mentioned that natural talent and other factors likely play a role in mastering a complex activity.

 “Repeated practice is indeed important to reach an elite level of performance, however, the results reveal that it is not enough,” said Hambrick.

The debate over why and how people become experts in certain areas has existed for over a century. Many theorists claim that thousands of hours of focused, deliberate practice is adequate to become an elite. Hambrick disagrees. “The evidence is very clear,” he says, “that some people do become an expert without copious practice, whereas others fail to do so in spite of copious practice.”

Hambrick and co-workers analyzed 14 studies of musicians and chess players, looking specifically at how practice affected the differences in performance. They found that practice only accounted for around one-third of the differences in skill in both chess and music. So, what made up the rest? Based on current research, Hambrick said it might be explained by factors like intelligence or innate ability, and the age at which people begin the particular activity. One of Hambrick’s previous study suggested that working memory capacity is closely related to general intelligence and sometimes may be the deciding factor between performing good and great.

However, Hambrick also noted the “silver lining” to his research: “If people are provided with an accurate evaluation of their capabilities and the chance of achieving certain goals given those abilities, they might gravitate towards domains in which they have a realistic odds of becoming an elite through concentrated, deliberate practice.”

Source: Science Daily
Image source: gosimply.com