Tag Archives: Practice (learning method)

Imagining a dialog may improve writing skills

29 Mar

There is a line of evidence suggesting that visualizing a task improves subsequent performance. Now a paper published in Psychological Science suggests that imaging a dialog improves writing. Here is the abstract:

Young adults received information regarding the platforms of two candidates for mayor of a troubled city. Half constructed a dialogue between advocates of the candidates, and the other half wrote an essay evaluating the candidates’ merits. Both groups then wrote a script for a TV spot favoring their preferred candidate. Results supported our hypothesis that the dialogic task would lead to deeper, more comprehensive processing of the two positions, and hence a richer representation of them. The TV scripts of the dialogue group included more references to city problems, candidates’ proposed actions, and links between them, as well as more criticisms of proposed actions and integrative judgments extending across multiple problems or proposed actions. Assessment of levels of epistemological understanding administered to the two groups after the writing tasks revealed that the dialogic group exhibited a lesser frequency of the absolutist position that knowledge consists of facts knowable with certainty. The potential of imagined interaction as a substitute for actual social exchange is considered.

While I am intrigued, I do have some skepticism about the “epistemological understanding” outcome measure. This approach is based upon a Kuhnian model of science, an approach that is largely rejected by philosophers and historians of science.

How to practice effectively

24 Mar

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

More about the 10,000 hour rule

29 Aug

Yesterday, I blogged about a paper that cast doubt on extreme claims made for the 10,000 hour rule. Now I discovered this blog post at The Science of Sport that makes a similar argument. Writing about Ericsson’s work, the author noted:

“I have that study, and what is remarkable about it is that Ericsson presents no indication of variance – there are no standard deviations, no maximums, minimums, or ranges.  And so all we really know is that AVERAGE practice time influences performance, not whether the individual differences present might undermine that argument.  Statistically, this is a crucial omission and it may undermine the 10,000 hour conclusion entirely.”

They include this revealing chart:

Screen shot 2011-08-09 at 12.24.05 PM

I am not sure this undermines the role of deliberate practice, but I think it puts the extreme claims made on its behalf into perspective. In general, it always safer to assume that human talent is a consequence of the complicated interaction of genes and the environment, rather that extreme view that it has to be exclusively one or the other.

The 10,000 hour rule: Some skepticism

28 Aug

The 10,000 hour rule, the claim that extensive practice trumps native ability, has captured the public’s imagination. The rule derives from the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson.  Here is a succinct statement of Ericsson’s position:

“In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years” – source

I think Ericsson’s work is important and deliberate does play an important role in the development of talent. However, an important paper by Philip Ackerman in the journal Intelligence argues convincingly that the 10,000 hour rule is an extreme claim not supported by the evidence. In his words:

“Extreme positions on this controversy are fundamentally silly — both nature and nurture are necessary determinants of expert/elite performance, but neither alone represents a sufficient causal factor. “

Here is a typical presentation of the 10,000 hour rule:


(source: http://expertadvantage.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/10000hours1/)

Note, however, that the chart is a representation of mean values. It does not show the variance around the mean. That variance is critical because it would tell us how much of performance is unexplained by the rule.

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