Sorry, those of you told you were talented: Effort still matters much more

David Hambrick and Elizabeth J. Meinz, arguing that Talent Matters in today’s New York Times Sunday review section:

But working memory capacity made a statistically significant contribution as well about 7 percent, a medium-size effect

This was in comparison to total practice time, which contributed “nearly half of the performance differences.” This is from a Meinz and Hambrick 2010 article in Psychological Science about piano performance,1 with the 7% reference to the increased variance in performance ratings explained when you add the working-memory measure to the practice-time measure.

I would not call it a “medium-size effect” given the dominance of practice time over the working-memory measure. It’s much smaller than the effect of practice (which accounts for 45% of the variance). My quick reading as an outsider to the field: Meinz and Hambrick look like they’ve set up a straw-man argument. Does anyone really think effort is all that matters, or just that it matters much more than anything you could call native talent?


  1. Added 11/26/11: I forgot to note in writing this to indicate that the study was about rated piano performances. []

2 responses to “Sorry, those of you told you were talented: Effort still matters much more”

  1. Glen S. McGhee

    Sadly, I am now of the opinion that MOST talent is wasted.

  2. CCPhysicist

    The abstract indicates that they attacked a straw man. Who could possibly claim that “expert performance is solely a reflection of deliberate practice”. Gladwell didn’t, since he singled out a 120 IQ as another element.

    It looks to me like this article was marketed to get their names and their university’s names into the Times.

    I’m with Glen. I see this all of the time. People who got by on “talent” but never learned to work hard hit a wall when practice starts to matter. Often that is when they get to college.