The pursuit of mastery has been a popular topic in recent years, with plenty of research and information being presented in books like Outliers. The basic assertion of the mastery research is that to become a master, one needs to do 10,000 hours of practice. Studies have been done on chess masters, musicians, and even youths who grow into soccer pros. Part of the research on the process of mastery has been the assertion that high intelligence is of little or no help to the process after a point.
Now, there is research to counter that assertion. New research indicates that intelligence does indeed play a role. An article titled, “Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters” appeared in the New York times about this research. To quote the article:
In our own recent research, we have discovered that “working memory capacity,” a core component of intellectual ability, predicts success in a wide variety of complex activities. In one study, we assessed the practice habits of pianists and then gauged their working memory capacity, which is measured by having a person try to remember information (like a list of random digits) while performing another task. We then had the pianists sight read pieces of music without preparation.
Not surprisingly, there was a strong positive correlation between practice habits and sight-reading performance. In fact, the total amount of practice the pianists had accumulated in their piano careers accounted for nearly half of the performance differences across participants. But working memory capacity made a statistically significant contribution as well (about 7 percent, a medium-size effect). In other words, if you took two pianists with the same amount of practice, but different levels of working memory capacity, it’s likely that the one higher in working memory capacity would have performed considerably better on the sight-reading task.
Read the entire article here: