August 31, 2010

Deliberate practice overcomes plateaus and limits on improvement of performance

Since Sir Francis Galton’s book on Hereditary Genius, many scientists have argued that heritable factors set limits of performance and only allow a select few individuals to attain exceptional levels. However, recent research rejects the associated learning theory and its implied performance plateaus and shows that expert performance is mediated by acquired complex cognitive mechanisms. It describes different types of deliberate practice activities that develop and refine mental representations, which in turn permit attained performance to exceed performance resulting from extensive experience only. Empirical investigations are reviewed to show that expert performance and outstanding achievements will be primarily constrained by individuals’ engagement in deliberate practice and the quality of the available training resources.

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