Found in 14 comments on Hacker News
closed · 2019-10-27 · Original thread
It seems worth noting that Anders Ericcson's handbook on expertise has chapters studying business expertise (though I get the feeling C level management gurus aren't reading it; there's an interesting chapter on entrepreneurs though!).

barry-cotter · 2019-01-02 · Original thread
There are two interpretations of this, one of which is irrelevant to IQ and psychometrics and the other of which has no evidence despite several people spending most of their career looking for it.

Math, music, chess, story telling and social intelligence are all skills, all of which can be improved from a low base. In all of them higher g will be helpful because there’s very little where higher g isn’t helpful. If you want to learn about the science of skill building it’s better known as the study of expertise. K. Anders Ericsson founder the field. He wrote a popular book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

If you want the academic treatment there’s a Cambridge Handbook of Expeetise and Expert Performance.

If you want to read about how multiple intelligence theory á la Gardner has no empirical support start here.

> Multiple Intelligences, the Mozart Effect, and Emotional Intelligence: A Critical Review

> This article reviews evidence for multiple intelligences theory, the Mozart effect theory, and emotional intelligence theory and argues that despite their wide currency in education these theories lack adequate empirical support and should not be the basis for educational practice. Each theory is compared to theory counterparts in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuro- science that have better empirical support. The article considers possible reasons for the appeal of these 3 theories and concludes with a brief rationale for examining theories of cognition in the light of cognitive neuroscience research findings.

If you want attempts at something that kind of looks like multiple intelligence from people who actually know psychometrics look up the work of Robert J. Sternberg. Criticism below

> Dissecting practical intelligence theory: Its claims and evidence

> Sternberg et al. [Sternberg, R. J., Forsythe, G. B., Hedlund, J., Horvath, J. A., Wagner, R. K., Williams, W. M., Snook, S. A., Grigorenko, E. L. (2000). Practical intelligence in everyday life. New York: Cambridge University Press] review the theoretical and empirical supports for their bold claim that there exists a general factor of practical intelligence that is distinct from ‘‘academic intelligence’’ ( g) and which predicts future success as well as g, if not better. The evidence collapses, however, upon close examination. Their two key theoretical propositions are made plausible only by ignoring the considerable evidence contradicting them. Their six key empirical claims rest primarily on the illusion of evidence, which is enhanced by the selective reporting of results. Their small set of usually poorly documented studies on the correlates of tacit knowledge (the ‘‘important aspect of practical intel- ligence’’) in five occupations cannot, whatever the results, do what the work is said to have done— dethroned g as the only highly general mental ability or intelligence.

50CNT · 2016-07-16 · Original thread
First, congratulations on learning the guitar, I'm really happy that it brings joy to your life.

However, research in the area of expert performance shows that when it comes to this practice, not just the amount, but the type of practice matters tremendously. How practice is done is such a major factor in improvement that taking the 10,000 hour rule by itself is like solving physics problems with the formula F = a instead of F = ma.

Research in the area shows that performers usually plateau after reaching competence, which is the point they no longer struggle with regular operations. At this point, automaticity takes over, which for example is the reason that whilst most people can walk, few get consistently better at it despite walking a lot. This means, that out of the 10,000 hours put into learning the task, 9,000 are potentially wasted.

In order to leave plateaus, one needs engage in "deliberate practice", a term coined by the cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson. It's presence, or lack thereof has been shown across a wide variety of disciplines between masters and people who are merely good after having spent similar amounts of time on practice.

Deliberate practice is practice where you consciously strain for a point that is just outside your current skill level. In the case of musicians for example, it can manifest as slowing down a song to a crawl until every note is hit in the right way, and then slowly speeding up or slowing down again at the line where one starts making mistakes.

My point is that whilst the 10,000 hour rule is useful for setting time expectations to become a master at a task and helps illustrate how expertise is attainable for all of us if we put in the time and work, it lacks predictive power for whether you will become great at something after spending this amount of time.

For a hobby, this may only result in some wasted practice time getting to competence(I've eyeballed this at about a factor of 2 doing some testing learning the piano, unscientific, I know), which is perfectly fine. You're doing it for fun. Pain periods and all.

For an occupation, however, it can lead to endless grief. You've read about the 10,000 hour rule, you want to become very good, but after a year of work, you don't ever become significantly better. You sit there, grasping at the problem, but it's elusive, like you're wildly tweaking screen settings things to fix a kernel bug.

I am also oversimplifying a bit for brevity here, but there's some books on the topic. For an in depth review, there's the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance"[0].

For a lighter book more along the lines of Outliers, theres "The Talent Code"[1] by Daniel Coyle. AFAIK, both draw from the Cambridge book.

Both of them are worth a look, the 10,000 hour rule might tell you "I can do it", but these will tell you "How to do it".

[0][] [1][]

oskarth · 2015-04-23 · Original thread
This is interesting, but the hours are vastly overestimated, at least compared to similar metrics (e.g. from the deliberate practice and expertise literature):

If we figure a 40-hour work week... it wasn't my only activity. Let's knock that number down by 20% to account for my occasionally having to spend time on other things.

There's no way anyone spends 40 or even 30 hours a week writing. Most authors spend something like 3-4 hours a day writing - and that's a good day!

See for example the chapter on writers in Cambridge Expertise Performance Handbook (

In general this type of reasoning (40h work week => time for 40h of writing) makes time estimates troublesome in my opinion. Another example is people who claim to write code for 40, 60 or even 80 hours a week. A look at actual RescueTime data gives a sober picture:

Of course, you could claim a lot of the work happens in breaks, and I would agree. But then the actual weekly number for our most beloved artists, programmers, and scientists is more like 24*7, literally. In that case, it makes more sense to talk about it in on the timescale of days, weeks, months or years.

BlackJack · 2012-08-01 · Original thread
What a bunch of negative bullshit. What do you expect Michael Phelps to say? "Hey kids who look up to me, don't follow your dreams because you probably don't have the right set of genes. Just acknowledge it's difficult and move on."

People act like being "world class" is some big mystery, but not in the 21st century. Extensive research has come to the conclusion that deliberate practice, over a long period of time, with the appropriate guidance of coaches and mentors is necessary and mostly sufficient to produce expertise in a field.

No, I don't think anyone can be Michael Phelps. In fact, it is clear that physical advantages go a long way in sports and athletic events. In almost everything else though, the right approach can produce mastery. The Polgar family is a living example of that w.r.t. chess. And most people are not looking to become world champions - they simply want to be successful in their endeavors. For that to happen, you must apply the same principles. To lose weight, I agree that saying "just diet and work out" is difficult, but most effective programs are either a result of intrinsic motivation or someone implementing a gradual program where you first cut out some sugar, then all soda, then cake, then you start eating one good meal a day, and so on and so forth.

In my view, this post marginalizes human willpower, which I consider one of the strongest forces in the world. Sure you won't be Michael Phelps, but you could say "No matter how hard you try, you will never become a Redwood," and I think the result is the same. Most people don't aspire to be world champion swimmers or extremely tall trees. They want to be successful in their endeavors, and for reasonably well off people in the Western world (which I think describes a large part of this board), there really isn't anything holding you back.

Ericsson et al. published a review of this field (expertise) in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance ( It's 900 pages but if you can't make it through a serious book then you sure as hell can't succeed in anything that requires real dedication.

oskarth · 2012-05-12 · Original thread
I think a point that is often glossed over here is the extreme value of compound interest and self-inforced feedback loops. Calling someone a genius is a cop-out, in my opinion.

If you're a Tao or Feynman, chances are you have been doing "maths" intuitively since a very young age. All these moments add up and reinforce each other. Is that the same as being a genius? Maybe, but then we are dealing with definitions - in my mind genius is a myth created by society to explain "unexplainable" things. That and an excuse for people's relative incompetence - see Hamming in his article "You and Your Research" [0].

The science of experts and deliberate practise [1, 2] is actually quite solid, despite its gladwellification. For example there have to my knowledge not been found a single person who defies the "logic of practise" - oft cited examples are Mozart and Woods, which are more of a myth making than based in any known facts (consider how both their fathers pushed them extremely hard with the right type of practise from a very early age).

Of course, there will always be variations (but these could in my opinion just as well be ascribed to right-time-right-place mechanisms). I suspect a large "problem" is - if the next 11 year old Tao has already had thousands of hours of something akin to deliberate practise, how on earth are other people - who don't share this natural inclination - going to catch up?

0: From

Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode's office and said, ``How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?'' He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, ``You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.'' I simply slunk out of the office!

What Bode was saying was this: ``Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.'' Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity - it is very much like compound interest. I don't want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode's remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this.

On this matter of drive Edison says, ``Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.'' He may have been exaggerating, but the idea is that solid work, steadily applied, gets you surprisingly far. The steady application of effort with a little bit more work, intelligently applied is what does it. That's the trouble; drive, misapplied, doesn't get you anywhere. I've often wondered why so many of my good friends at Bell Labs who worked as hard or harder than I did, didn't have so much to show for it. The misapplication of effort is a very serious matter. Just hard work is not enough - it must be applied sensibly.



tokenadult · 2011-11-20 · Original thread
One logical flaw in their argument, one I've seen frequently made by professors of psychology who focus on individual differences, is that they don't know whether or not the difference among participants in the Study of Exceptional Talent (a group of young people who score high on the SAT at a young age, a group that includes an immediate relative of mine) is from what they call "talent" or from practice. Nothing about the way the Study of Exceptional Talent gathers its rather limited data about study participants allow distinguishing one possibility from the other. There is no basis from the data-gathering done in that study to conclude that there is ANY difference between the "99.1 percentile" and the "99.9 percentile," especially given the error bands around SAT scores.

One of the really amazing things about the export performance literature by Ericsson, Charness, and others

is that it comes out of a tradition in psychology--individual differences psychology--that very readily defaults to genetic explanations and very readily ignores possible environmental explanations of the same individual differences. Ericsson's experimental results in training digit span (which is part of the item content of same IQ test batteries) were completely surprising when published in peer-reviewed journals--no one ever imagined that digit span

was such a malleable ability.

But digit span, which is malleable (trainable), is closely related to the "working memory capacity" that the authors are implicitly claiming is not malleable. That is not at all clear, and much experimental work suggests that working memory capacity is more malleable than the authors acknowledge in this opinion piece.

Also on-point here is pg's comment from his essay "What You'll Wish You'd Known"

"I'm not saying there's no such thing as genius. But if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right."

gcheong · 2011-04-12 · Original thread
Here's one of the original papers that put forth the theory of deliberate practice and the 10,000 hour rule (though in the paper it is given as a 10-year rule):

The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance also covers a wide range of research on performance and expertise in various areas

tudorachim · 2010-06-15 · Original thread
The claim originally came from the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (
matrix · 2010-02-22 · Original thread
If you'd like to skip all the pundits (Gladwell included) and go straight to source of all this discussion about developing expertise, look no further than this book:

It's a compilation of academic papers and was the basis for Gladwell's book. It is not lightweight entertainment reading, but it's the real deal.

tokenadult · 2008-11-25 · Original thread
The formal study of expertise

suggests that it takes longer than a week to become an expert (by a reasonable definition of "expert") in any domain of significance.

lamaw · 2008-04-16 · Original thread
Useful novelty, that I would act on?

I've been immersed in my specialty for 15 years.

As it happens, this number of years is pretty much the norm for the highly creative (10 years is the lower bound). For details, see:

ajju · 2008-02-05 · Original thread
Interesting because it is in direct contradiction to a lot of research on expertise which strongly suggests that expertise takes time (and surprisingly, regardless of the field, it takes more or less 10 years) - summarized in this book

Of course we've all read Peter Norvig's "Teach yourself programming in 10 years"

Caveat: Just doing the same thing for 10 years does not an expert make. To quote Norvig's article

"the maximal level of performance for individuals in a given domain is not attained automatically as a function of extended experience, but the level of performance can be increased even by highly experienced individuals as a result of deliberate efforts to improve."

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