Howe 4

From: Marshall Helen (
Date: Thu May 28 1998 - 14:43:18 BST

I am meant to comment on the comments of somebody else for
Howe section 4 but since these comments have not been done
I will have a go myself.

> The causes of exceptional abilities may not be
> qualitatively different from those of less exceptional
> abilities in ordinary people.

> Many dimensions of human variability may influence
> people's learning experiences and their eventual
> patterns of ability: (1) relevant prior knowledge and
> skills, (2) attentiveness, concentration and
> distractibility, (3) interests and acquired preferences,
> (4) motivation and competitiveness, (5)
> self-confidence and optimism, (6) other aspects of
> temperament and personality, (7) enthusiasm and
> energy level and (8) fatigue and anxiety.

This paragraph reminds us that everyone has different
influences in their life and these influences may enable
abilities to be placed upon a continuum ranging from
exceptional to less exceptional. It may be particular
combinations of influences in an individual's life which
places them at the exceptional end, rather than an innate
talent. There is also a counter argument that those
considered talented all have a similar combination of
influences and it is this combination which leads to the
label "talented"

> Even those who are believed to be exceptionally talented,
> require lengthy periods of instruction and practice

> considerable help and encouragement is required by all
> young players, even those thought by their teachers and
> parents to be highly talented, if they are to maintain
> the levels of practice necessary to achieve expertise
> (Sloboda & Howe, 1991;).

> Sloboda, Davidson, Howe & Moore (1996)confirmed the strong
> positive correlation between practice
> and achievement, which was largest for the more formal and
> deliberate kinds of practice activities, such
> as scales and exercises. To achieve the highest level
> (Grade 8) of the British Associate Board
> examinations in performing music required an average of
> around 3300 hours of practice irrespective of
> the ability group to which the young people in the study
> were assigned. This suggests that practice is a
> direct cause of achievement level rather than merely a
> correlate of it.

Practice has been found to be an important factor in
attainment of expertise and even those considered
"talented" need encouragement to maintain high levels of
practice. However, amount of practice is insufficient
alone to produce excellence. Strategies are needed to
ensure that practice time is used effectively and personal
characteristics such as patience and motivation are also
important. Perhaps these factors can be seen in
"talented" individuals.
There may be a small number of people for whom vast amounts
of practice are not needed. For example Mozart started
writing music at a very young age and can't have had much
time to practice and develop a skill. Perhaps talent does
exist but only in a very small minority.

> people who are assumed to possess no talent are capable of
> very high levels of performance when given sufficient
> opportunities for training

This is a serious problem for the talent account but do
these "untalented" individuals reach the same level as the
"talented" ones?

> although differences in training, practice, and other
> aspects of individuals'
> experiences can go a long way towards accounting for
> differences in technical skills, they fail to account
> for those differences in less tangible traits, such as
> expressivity or creativity, that separate the most
> exceptional performers from others.

Creativity and expressivity are traits which may be
improved with practice to a certain extent but some believe
they are innate characteristics which you either have or
don't have. Exceptional performers often display wonderful
creativity and expression and it is this which gets them
noticed and leads to them being labelled as talented (just
look at Paul Gascoigne!). Muscles and skills need to be
developed and rules learned but creativity is rarely
included in training in the same way and does not appear in
everyone even at the highest level suggesting an innate

H. Marshall

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