Natural Talent Is A Myth

by Zach Briggs

The following is a document supporting my talk: "You're Not Special"

I assert the following: "There is no such thing as natural talent."

A provocative statement, but not specific enough to be proved or disproved. Allow me to be slightly more specific and state my understanding of what the current evidence has shown us.

Given the process of learning a complex skill well enough to become a world class expert

  • Differences in our starting points look like rounding errors.
  • When we are able to factor out the variations in the quality of practice, which is rare, our rate of learning seems to be roughly equivalent.

I am basing this assertion on the following literature:

I would be delighted to be shown that I either interpreted these papers incorrectly or that they've since been debunked.

My speculation, not evidence based:

I suspect that there are fields where "almost identical" and "rounding errors" make a big enough difference to count. I suspect competition based fields like elite athletics fall into this category.