The \u201crage to master\u201d: What it takes for those scary-smart kids to succeed

Psychology Professor Dean Keith Simonton quoted at Salon.

 The community of gifted children includes a much smaller subset of kids often described as prodigies, or the profoundly gifted. These are the scary-smart kids whose talents and early achievements are off the charts.

In 1993, Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson (now at Florida State University) proposed that expert performance was far more dependent on a long period of concentrated, deliberate practice than on innate ability or talent. Ericsson and his colleagues found that violinists and pianists whom faculty rated as the best musicians had devoted an average of more than ten thousand hours to deliberate practice by age twenty. “We attribute the dramatic differences in performance between experts and amateurs-novices to similarly large differences in the recorded amounts of deliberate practice,” concluded Ericsson.

In another blow to deliberatepractice theory, Simonton, of UC Davis, has led several studies that found that people with the greatest lifetime productivity and highest levels of eminence actually required the least amount of time to achieve high-level performance. While practice is as important for prodigies as for other people, the time in which prodigies can amass the expertise needed for mastery in any given field is compressed. (A 2014 New York Times article on the research debunking Ericsson’s deliberate-practice theory was titled “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Talent.”)

Read more at Salon.