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For 99.9% of you, clicking on this link will be very depressing.It’s a NYT op-ed by professors David Z. Hambrick and Elizabeth J. Meinz which points out what what matters in life isn’t effort or hard work: What matters in life is raw intelligence, and either you got it or you don’t.
Here’s the nut of it:
Research has shown that intellectual ability matters for success in many fields — and not just up to a point.
Exhibit A is a landmark study of intellectually precocious youths directed by the Vanderbilt University researchers David Lubinski and Camilla Benbow. They and their colleagues tracked the educational and occupational accomplishments of more than 2,000 people who as part of a youth talent search scored in the top 1 per cent on the SAT by the age of 13. (Scores on the SAT correlate so highly with I.Q. that the psychologist Howard Gardner described it as a “thinly disguised” intelligence test.) The remarkable finding of their study is that, compared with the participants who were “only” in the 99.1 percentile for intellectual ability at age 12, those who were in the 99.9 percentile — the profoundly gifted — were between three and five times more likely to go on to earn a doctorate, secure a patent, publish an article in a scientific journal or publish a literary work. A high level of intellectual ability gives you an enormous real-world advantage.
The authors go on to cite their own research conducted on pianists, which showed that when it comes to sight-reading ability, practice doesn’t matter as much as “working memory” capacity does.
What’s interesting here is how un-popular this idea is. Malcolm Gladwell had a huge hit with his book on outliers, which basically argued that the real key to extreme success was just putting a bunch of hours into the work.
The kind of research also makes people uncomfortable, since it means that not everyone who wants to be great can be, and that there are probably some limits to how far we should go to cultivate talent, etc.
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