07/31/06 - genius

In today's excerpt - Philip E. Ross argues that genius is a function of hard work—geniuses are made not born—after reviewing experiments and data on the subject of experts in various fields:

"Herbert A. Simon [of Carnegie Mellon] coined a psychological law of his own, the 10-year rule, which states that it takes approximately a decade of heavy labor to master any field. [Based on the evidence], 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.

"... K. Anders Ericsson [of Florida State University] argues that what matters is not experience 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. ...

"Even the novice engages in effortful study at first, which is why beginners so often improve rapidly in playing golf, say, or driving a car. But having reached an acceptable level of performance—for instance, keeping up with one's golf buddies or passing a driver's exam—most people relax. Their performance then becomes automatic and therefore impervious to further improvement. In contrast, experts-in-training keep the lid of their mind's box open all the time, so that they can inspect, criticize and augment its contents and thereby approach the standard set by leaders in their field."


Philip E. Ross


'The Expert Mind'


Scientific American


August 2006


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