March 6, 2011

Natural or learned talent

Harvard researchers Chia-Jung Tsay and Mahzarin Banaji presented more than 100 professionally trained musicians with two profiles of two professional musicians, and a sample musical clip to listen to from each musician. The participants were then asked questions about how talented and successful they perceived the performer to be, and how willing they might be to hire this person. In fact, both clips were the same musical excerpt, and the profiles differed only in their mention of whether the musician had natural or learned talent. The results ultimately showed two effects: “We found even in experts and ostensibly professionally trained musicians, most of them could not tell that the recordings were the same. And on average, people seemed to prefer the ‘naturally’ talented individual, even when they said they believed hard work was more important than natural talent.”
Also read: The word 'talent'


  1. Perhaps this shows that we all admire natural talent even if we know that hard work ultimately pays off and can develop our abilities.

    What's your take on this study Coert?

  2. I think the study is an example of how we perceive what we expect. We thus perceive reality in a way that confirms our expectations and implicit theories. This happens largely without us being aware of it. It is a circular process of evidence building


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