It Takes More than Practice to Make Perfect

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-07_acc6f9a29c.jpgiStock/Thinkstock (NEW YORK) -- Practice improves performance, but it may not be enough to get you to the point of perfection. That’s the conclusion of a joint study by researchers from Rice University, Princeton University and Michigan State University, who looked into why repeated practice by those in sports, the arts, education and other professions catapults only a limited number to the very top of their fields of endeavor.

On the upside, Fred Oswald, chair of psychology at Rice, says those who engage in structured activities created specifically to improve performance -- that is, deliberate practice -- tended “to perform at a higher level than people who practice less.”

Still, the meta-analysis of 88 previous studies that Oswald and his colleagues examined also determined that one’s basic abilities are just as important as deliberate practice.

The researchers did not discount the importance of practice because it does make nearly everyone better. Yet, being gifted as well is the variable that separates the exceptionally good from the merely very good.

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