Talent Show and Tell

David Shenk, author of a bunch of really interesting non-fiction books including this one on chess, and this one on Alzheimer’s disease, has begun working on a book about talent. In one key regard, Shenk is following in footsteps of, inter alia, Chris Anderson, who used a blog to help develop the content of his book, both called The Long Tail. Here is Shenk’s new blog, in which he describes his book, to be called The Genius In All of Us: Nature, Nurture and the New Science of Talent and Giftedness:

Where does greatness come from? How did Mozart become Mozart or Tiger Woods become Tiger Woods? How does one 10-year-old develop perfect pitch while his kid brother can’t even get through “Happy Birthday” without scaring people out of the room? The search for the root of talent and “giftedness” is an old and contentious one, and has high-stakes implications. A century-old nature vs. nurture debate has continuously flummoxed scientists and inflamed popular discourse.

Now, thanks to a gym full of new science, there is a new, third way to understand talent, giftedness, and extraordinary achievement. The details are tricky, but the message and implications are clear.

I am pretty sure that the “third way” Shenk refers to is the work of researchers like Anders Ericsson, which we wrote about here.

The goal of Shenk’s blog is meant to generate discourse on the subject. Given that goal, I predict it will be, shall we say, wildly successful. It would be fun to take bets on how long it takes for a certain kind of I.Q. evangelist to show up and commandeer the discussion. But, just as Vegas bookmakers won’t take bets on events that can be too easily manipulated by the parties involved, I’m afraid that’s a non-starter.


snubgodtoh

I wonder if first names have any predictive power in the arena of who will and will not grow up to be avant-garde psychologists. R alf Th., Clemens, Anders?

Neo

Nature vs. Nurture... If only, the answers were that easy.

What is definitely a must-have is a parent that is conscious of this as he raises his or her child and is perceptive enough to spot a 'natural' talent and then able to 'nurture' it.

egretman

Excellent post. We constantly confuse genius and talent. Practice practice practice makes talent. And we should leave the term genius to cognitive abilities.

But I had a friend call Bush a "genius" for getting as far as he has. What do we make of that?

dshenk

Thanks for the kind and thoughtful plug, Stephen. Actually, the "third way" I'm referring to does partly come from Anders Ericsson's work on expertise. That's half of it. The other half is our dramatic new understanding of genetic expression -- or "nature via nurture" as Matt Ridley and others have put it. What the blog and book aim to do is fuse together these two powerful observations:

1) Genes are not fixed blueprints dictating where our lives go but an at-work construction crew constantly interacting with every moment of life experience and rebuilding accordingly.

2. What we used to think of as innate limits on what most of us are capable of really don't appear to exist. Yes, of course, there are ultimately limits on what each of us can do, but our individual potential is much, much greater than most of us realize, and Ericsson et al are helping to uncover how high-achievers actually get there.

Read more...

snubgodtoh

I wonder if first names have any predictive power in the arena of who will and will not grow up to be avant-garde psychologists. R alf Th., Clemens, Anders?

Neo

Nature vs. Nurture... If only, the answers were that easy.

What is definitely a must-have is a parent that is conscious of this as he raises his or her child and is perceptive enough to spot a 'natural' talent and then able to 'nurture' it.

egretman

Excellent post. We constantly confuse genius and talent. Practice practice practice makes talent. And we should leave the term genius to cognitive abilities.

But I had a friend call Bush a "genius" for getting as far as he has. What do we make of that?

dshenk

Thanks for the kind and thoughtful plug, Stephen. Actually, the "third way" I'm referring to does partly come from Anders Ericsson's work on expertise. That's half of it. The other half is our dramatic new understanding of genetic expression -- or "nature via nurture" as Matt Ridley and others have put it. What the blog and book aim to do is fuse together these two powerful observations:

1) Genes are not fixed blueprints dictating where our lives go but an at-work construction crew constantly interacting with every moment of life experience and rebuilding accordingly.

2. What we used to think of as innate limits on what most of us are capable of really don't appear to exist. Yes, of course, there are ultimately limits on what each of us can do, but our individual potential is much, much greater than most of us realize, and Ericsson et al are helping to uncover how high-achievers actually get there.

Read more...