Why Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule is wrong
There’s no magic number for becoming a world-beater, says science writer David Bradley, just ask the psychologist whose research formed the basis of the popular idea.
Being exceptional at something is often attributed to one’s genes. Talent is passed down from parents or grandparents it seems, whether it is musical or artistic skill, ability with numbers or being great at juggling. No doubt there are significant genetic factors involved, but there are almost certainly environmental factors in the mix too. Perhaps the two work together, one boosting the other, so that those remarkable genes give rise to remarkable talent only if the skills are suitably nurtured.
However, many people now recognise that talent is learned and earned through extended and intense practice of a skill. No pain, no gain, as they say, in which case genes may have little to do with it.
This idea is encapsulated in a golden rule made popular by the writer Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. This “10,000 hours of practice” rule is based on research by psychologist Anders Ericsson, now at Florida State University. The rule tells us, a mere 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in your particular field is sufficient to bring out the best in you. Is this true? ... ...
...To notch up 10,000 hours would require about 90 minutes of practice every day for 20 years. This might explain why the typical child learning the piano will never make it to concert level. Three hours a day gets you to that stage within a decade, so start at the age of ten and you’re done before you’re out of your teens.
Unfortunately, the moment the 10,000-hour mark is reached is not a skills tipping point – to use another phrase popularised by Gladwell. Learning and gaining experience are gradual processes; skills evolve slowly, with practice. And there is a vast range of time periods over which different individual reach their own peak of proficiency – their concert level, you might say – in whatever field.
Returning to Ericsson’s original study on violinists, they did indeed find that the best of Berlin’s Academy of Music’s best spent significantly more time practicing than lesser-accomplished musicians. But there is nothing magical about the 10,000 figure, as Ericsson said recently, because the best group of musicians had accumulated an average, not a total, of over 10,000 hours by the age of twenty. In the world of classical music it seems that the winners of international competitions are those who have put in something like 25,000 hours of dedicated, solitary practice – that’s three hours of practice every day for more than 20 years...
Full Article: Why Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule is wrong
A bit of scientific tidbit to spice up your PSLE results day