The best do not practice anymore: the 10,000-hour rule is not always fulfilled

The 10,000 hour rule, the idea that anyone who practices an activity during that time becomes an expert in that activity (read playing the violin, for example), increasingly seems to have more detractors in the form of studies that invalidate it.

The last one has been a study in violinists, which suggests that those who are simply good at playing the violin practice more hours than those who are better. The hours of practice, the reality, they only explain a quarter of the difference in capabilities. That is to say, that not everything comes down to practice and practice, there has to be something else, such as natural talent, innate abilities to learn or the quality of teachers or teaching techniques.


The seed of the 10,000-hour rule was a 1993 study of violinists and pianists who found that accumulated practice time increased with musical skill.

The idea of ​​ten thousand hours was popularized in the book of Malcolm Gladwell, of the year 2008, Were standard. How much is approximately 10,000 hours that the brain needs to, thanks to its plasticity, become especially skilled in some activity? About 10 years. However, it seems that things are not so simple.

As it explains Brooke Macnamara, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio: "When it comes to human ability, a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic factors and their interactions explain the differences in performance between people."

Macnamara and his colleague Megha Maitra set out to repeat part of the 1993 study to see if they could reach the same conclusions. They interviewed three groups of 13 violinists rated as better, good or less skilled about their practice habits, before they completed daily diaries of their activities for a week.

While less skilled violinists recorded an average of approximately 6,000 hours of practice at the age of 20, there was little to separate the good ones from the best musicians, and each recorded an average of approximately 11,000 hours. In total, the number of hours dedicated to practice represented approximately a quarter of the difference in skills in the three groups, according to the study published in Royal Society Open Science.

The factors depend on the skill that is learned: in chess it could be intelligence or working memory, in sport it can be how efficiently a person consumes oxygen. To complicate matters further, one factor can lead to another. A child who enjoys playing the violin, for example, may be happy to practice and concentrate on the task because he does not perceive it as a task.

However, Macnamara said it was important for people to understand the limits of the practice. "The practice makes you better than yesterday, most of the time," he said. “But it may not make you better than your neighbor. Or the other guy in your violin class.

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