The Limits of Practice

The New York Times:

I started playing the French horn in sixth grade. I was a rule follower, and so I practiced regularly, in addition to performing at concerts and parades and all the other glamorous events to which a teenage French horn player is routinely invited. And yet, six years later, I was only marginally less terrible than when I began.

Those who, like me, have failed to become proficient at something despite working at it for a long time can take heart from a new paper in the journal Psychological Science. Brooke N. Macnamara and her co-authors analyzed 88 studies of the impact of practice on people’s prowess in such areas as music, sports and professional jobs. They found that practice helped, but it wasn’t everything — it explained about 21 percent of the difference in subjects’ musical skills, 18 percent of the difference in sports and less than 1 percent of the difference in professions. So definitely leave work early today — you may not be getting any better by staying.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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