10000 hours practice (and more and less), the story continues

It’s a study I’ve written about already a year ago by Hambrick et al on the popular idea (made popular by Gladwell) that you need 10000 hours to become an expert. Well, the truth is more complicated.

Now that a discussion on the first paper by Hambrick et al is published in a journal, also the media has discovered these insights.

The abstract of the reply to the critique on the 10000 hours by Ericsson:

  • Current performance, “what is”, differs from performance after training, “what could be”.
  • Among expert performers general cognitive ability does not correlate with performance.
  • The heritability of expert performance is currently unknown.-Estimated hours of self-reported practice is a poor predictor of overall effects of training.

Many misunderstandings about the expert-performance approach can be attributed to its unique methodology and theoretical concepts. This approach was established with case studies of the acquisition of expert memory with detailed experimental analysis of the mediating mechanisms. In contrast the traditional individual difference approach starts with the assumption of underlying general latent factors of cognitive ability and personality that correlate with performance across levels of acquired skill. My review rejects the assumption that data on large samples of beginners can be extrapolated to samples of elite and expert performers. Once we can agree on the criteria for reproducible objective expert performance and acceptable methodologies for collecting valid data. I believe that scientists will recognize the need for expert-performance approach to the study of expert performance, especially at the very highest levels of achievement.

The insights of the answer to the reply:

  • Ericsson’s view of expert performance (the original research Gladwell build upon) is rejected on an empirical basis.
  • Deliberate practice is not nearly as important as Ericsson has argued it is.
  • Ericsson’s response is undermined by contradictions and errors in his arguments.
  • The important question now for research on expert performance is what else matters.

The abstract of this reply:

The deliberate practice view has generated a great deal of scientific and popular interest in expert performance. At the same time, empirical evidence now indicates that deliberate practice, while certainly important, is not as important as Ericsson and colleagues have argued it is. In particular, we (Hambrick, Oswald, Altmann, Meinz, Gobet, & Campitelli, 2014-this issue) found that individual differences in accumulated amount of deliberate practice accounted for about one-third of the reliable variance in performance in chess and music, leaving the majority of the reliable variance unexplained and potentially explainable by other factors. Ericsson’s (2014-this issue) defense of the deliberate practice view, though vigorous, is undercut by contradictions, oversights, and errors in his arguments and criticisms, several of which we describe here. We reiterate that the task now is to develop and rigorously test falsifiable theories of expert performance that take into account as many potentially relevant constructs as possible.

Actually, if you read both papers, it’s clear that talent (or genes or…) also will play a role, but also there is always a need for practice. How much practice will depend on those other elements and don’t be sure you’ll ever reach the level of expert.

2 thoughts on “10000 hours practice (and more and less), the story continues

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