Comments on Ben Payne's comments on Weisberg/Winner/Zohar on Howe et
It does not seem sufficient to say that the reason that people
practice and perfect their talents as a result of innate abilities.
I am sure some do not seem to have a natural ability and yet with
vigorous practice can become accomplished in their chosen
field. I support the notion that it is the quality of the practice
which is important and that it may be constrained by innate talent.
However I believe that practice makes perfect and it that people can
learn from their mistakes and are not 'doomed to repeat the same
mistakes over and over again'.
Evidence drawn from work with autistic children reinstates the
importance of defining talent - does talent have to be innovative?
Talent is both time and context dependent - many painters, musicians
etc. were considered 'before their time' because they work was not
appreciated as talent until years after their death. Also whilst
someone would consider one thing to be talent another would think it
to be nothing special. Are expert brain surgeons talented or do
they simply practices what they have been taught?
I agree with Winner that practice plays an important role in
individuals abiltities. The evidence he cites from the works
of Mozart and Lennon-McCartney compositions in support of his
arguement are quite convincing although, like Zohar, he focuses to
greatly on one particular talent - in this case musical composition.
He also fails to conside why much of Lennon & McCartneys early work
focused on faithful cover versions, as this is a common practice for
new bands who when starting out have to give the audience something
familiar whilst writing their own material.
Winner acknowledges that other factors may account for his evidence,
namely maturation which might be cruical. I believe that interest in
the subject, motivations etc. may also play a part in talent and
therefore should also be considered.
Although I accept that muscial composition is partly determined by
cultural factors, simply focusing on the genetic influences of one
talent, in this case mathematical reasoning, will only tell
us about this one talent. Using mathematical reasoning to test innate
talent will only tell us whether mathematical reasoning is innate it
will not help determine if other forms of talent are innate
Therefore it is important to attempt to study other forms of talent
such as painting, musical composition etc. Although it may be
difficult to successfully seperate genetic from cultural influences
it is a goal which must be strived for instead of simply ignoring
studying something which appears too difficult.
Zohar states that it is sufficient to say individual may have a
genetically predisposed ability to pick up skills more easily than
others and as a result emphasises the need to study individual before
they recieve training. However this idea is dependent on the
definition of talent and methodology employed. Although I would
suggest that it is a combination of both genetic and cultural
influence It seems that to discover whether an
individual has a predisposition to pick up skills more easily is
necessary but not sufficient in the study of innate talents.
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