Practice Doesn’t Make a Person Perfect, Study
Benita Matilda

We all are familiar with the saying: “practice makes a man perfect,” but a new study has challenged this claiming that practice has less influence in making a person expert.

Since the 1980s, there has been a debate on whether experts are “born” or “made”. Over the years, a lot has been contributed to this debate, partly due to the 10,000-hour rule that was devised by Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book ‘Outliers’, driving focus away from the person’s innate ability. The book highlights that amount of practice is the key to success in any field.

The collaborated study led by researchers at the Princeton University, Michigan State University and Rice University highlights that deliberate practice has no major influence in building expertise.

The psychological scientist Brooke Macnamara said that the amount of practice accumulated over time, plays a critical role in accounting for the individual differences seen in skill performance that includes music, games, sports, professions and education. The overall practice just accounts for 12 percent of the individual differences that is seen in the person’s performance.

“Deliberate practice is unquestionably important, but not nearly as important as proponents of the view have claimed,” said Macnamara, who received her Ph.D. from Princeton in June. As of July 1, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the Case Western Reserve University.

In this study, the researchers focused on 88 different studies in order to evaluate the association between both – practice and performance – in various domains. Most of the studies highlighted a positive association between practice and performance, suggesting that the more a person practices, higher is their level of performance in a particular domain.

In games, practice accounts for 26 percent of individual performance like chess and scrabble, 21 percent in music like playing the piano and violin and 18 percent in sports like soccer and wrestling.

However, deliberate practice accounted for just 4 percent of individual differences in education and 1 percent in profession.

“There is no doubt that deliberate practice is important, from both a statistical and a theoretical perspective. It is just less important than has been argued,” Macnamara said. “For scientists, the important question now, is what else matters?”

The finding was documented in the journal Psychological Science.


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