Practice, skill, or talent? The nature of nurture

Warning! What follows is long, somewhat technical, and boring to look at. It may also be rambling, and at least somewhat incoherent.

This NYT caught my eye recently:
I’d heard about this study, and even praised it, somewhat, to my
Gladwell-quoting wife. So, basically, 10,000 hours alone does not make
you an expert, or highly skilled at doing something.


Some things to think about: the meta-analysis shows that “practice”
broadly construed, “explains”[1] about 20 – 25 percent of the variance in
performance across a wide variety of tasks. This is about the same
amount of variance in job performance measures explained by measured
cognitive ability (what we psychologists usually term “g“,
loosely, IQ test scores; the meta-analytic correlation between cognitive
ability and job performance is somewhere in the neighborhood of .5,
which equals about 25 percent of variance explained in the
outcome). General cognitive ability does seem to me to be the most
natural measure that we have for “talent”, but that’s a complicated
statement that I’d like to break down.

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What’s the deal with Batman, anyway?


(Bruce Wayne and his alter ego inĀ The Dark Knight, photo from Empire magazine via

I was recently asked what personality traits characterize Batman, in
particular, does he have a personality disorder. First, we’ll deal with
the normal aspects of Batman’s personality. If Batman has a cardinal
trait, it seems to me likely to be conscientiousness: what does
Batman do? He plans…and he carries out those plans, to the degree that
he can fight alongside and against characters classed as
“gods”. Batman’s determination and persistence, which themselves border
on the superhuman, also go hand-in-hand with this characteristic.

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In the media…

So, my work was featured in the Wall Street Journal:

Which led to an appearance on CBS This Morning:

And Southern California Public Radio’s Airtalk, with Larry Mantle:

And the Gil Gross Show in San Francisco:

And Binghamton’s own Public Radio, WSKG, with Charlie Compton:

And Al Jazeera America’s “Consider this” with Antonio Mora:

In addition, I will be on “Capitol City Recap” with Mike Cohen, on 1320
in Lansing, Michigan, sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Finally, I am scheduled to appear, with Sue Shellenbarger, author of the
Wall Street Journal piece, on NPR’s “On Point”, with Tom Ashbrook, on
July 24.