With blatant1 disregard for the public benefits of motivational idioms, researchers have concluded that practice does not, necessarily, make perfect.
A study of violinists found that merely good players practised as much as, if not more than, better players, leaving other factors such as quality of tuition, learning skills and perhaps natural talent to account for the difference.
The work is the latest blow to the 10,000-hour rule, the idea promoted in Malcolm Gladwell's 2008 book, Outliers, which has been taken to mean that enough practice will make an expert of anyone. In the book, Gladwell states that "ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness".
"The idea has become really entrenched2 in our culture, but it's an oversimplification," said Brooke Macnamara, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. "When it comes to human skill, a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic3 factors and their interactions explains the performance differences across people."
The seed for the 10,000-hour rule was a 1993 study of violinists and pianists which found that accumulated practice time rose with musical prowess. On average, top-ranked violinists had clocked up 10,000 hours of practice by the age of 20, though many had actually put in fewer hours. In the study, the authors rejected an important role for natural talent and argued that differences in ability, even among top musicians, were largely down to how much they practised. Gladwell seized on the round number to explain the success of notables from Bill Gates to the Beatles.
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