Kid Rock

Saw this poster taped to a lamppost in my neighborhood last weekend. There is so much to admire about it. My first thought concerned the talent/practice angle as espoused by Anders Ericsson.

I played in a bunch of bands when I was a kid. Although we were generally dreadful, playing clumpy versions of bad cover songs at poorly attended basement gigs, it was hard to deny that all that very deliberate practice paid off.

Choked by the Foam Hand

The “We’re No. 1!” foam hand was invented by high school teacher Geral Fauss in 1978, and originally came as a wooden sign that was too heavy (and too dangerous) to be practical. Cast today in polyurethane foam, the “No. 1” hand is one of the most popular ways for sports fans to demand the […]

What Makes a Singer “Good?”

A recent study found that most amateur singers can carry a tune just as accurately as trained professionals, suggesting that singing may be as universal a human trait as talking. But good pitch doesn’t always mean good music — Bob Dylan, for example, seems to have gotten along just fine without perfect pitch. So what […]

Scott Adams Answers Your Dilbert Questions, and More

(Photo: Scott Adams) Last week, we solicited your questions for Dilbert creator and author Scott Adams. Here are his answers. They are great, and so were your questions; thanks to Scott and thanks to you. Here’s what I found most interesting: 1. From his answers, Scott Adams would appear to be a poster boy (poster […]

How ‘Talented’ Is This Kid?

A while ago, we wrote a New York Times Magazine column about talent — what it is, how it’s acquired, etc. The gist of the column was that “raw talent,” as it’s often called, is vastly overrated, and that people who become very good at something, whether it’s sports, music, or medicine, generally do so […]

The Superstar Equation, Disproved?

Levitt and Dubner have written before about the origins of star-making talent. But can the road to pop culture megastardom be calculated as a matter of statistical probability? Back in 1994, Kee Chung of SUNY-Buffalo and Raymond Cox of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology applied an equation called the Yule-Simon Distribution to this […]

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 […]

Freakonomics in the Times Magazine: A Star Is Made

The May 7, 2006, Freakonomics column in the New York Times Magazine asks a fundamental -- but very hard -- question: When someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good? This blog post supplies additional research material.

Do You Know Why You Are Good at What You Do?

Our new “Freakonomics” column in the New York Times Magazine asks a fundamental — but very hard – question: When someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good? To find the answer to this question, we turned to Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State […]

The sad thing about “Deal or No Deal”

Being a contestant on this show requires no talent whatsoever. You pick suitcases. You decide whether you prefer a riskless offer of money to a risky one. Then you go home with a bunch of money. Along the way, the crowd and your chosen friends scream and cheer like there is great skill in choosing […]