Deliberate Practice, Other Factors, and Performance Outcomes

Title: The MindSide Podcast | An Examination of Deliberate Practice
Date: June 3, 2015
Podcast length: 0:38:32

Dr. Bhrett McCabe speaks with Dr. Brooke MacNamara, a psychology researcher who focuses on deliberate practice across different domains. Her work explores the question around outcomes of deliberate practice.

On the 10,000 hour rule

This was a term coined by Malcolm Gladwell after he saw a paper by Dr. Anders Ericsson, who studied master violinists. The problem with it is its vagueness. Moreover, modern adoptions of it (parents, teachers, etc.) are bastardized. For example, a parent might just think “as long as my child practices for 10,000 hours they’ll be great.” This isn’t really the case, however. A number of other factors come into play like whether or not a child enjoys what they’re practicing.

Her work has to do with performance variance and deliberate practice in order to answer the question about what variables have the most impact on an outcome.

Deliberate practice isn’t the only important factor

Deliberate practice has quickly become thought of as the sole factor in determining performance. However, Dr. MacNamara is interested in variance in performance, which is who performance differs across different people. Of course a person can get better with deliberate practice, but just how much they need completely depends on things like an enjoyment of it, a natural affinity towards it, etc. Someone who has all these other things at their disposal will be better at a faster rate.

Personality factors play a large role as well: Cognitive abilities, how quickly a person can process information, how quickly they can learn information. With sports, of course, a person’s physical structure is important too.

A moderator variable is another factor that might influence a relationship between practice and outcome by enhancing or attenuating the performance outcome.

The moderator of predictability

One moderator they looked at is “predictability” or how you can respond to something in your environment and how much time you can think about it (like a soccer field, which is less predictable versus running a marathon where you know what is next). When the task is repetitive, then deliberate practice was more important. When it is a lot less predictable, then stuff like reasoning ability is more important than deliberate practice. Experience here also plays a large role (like tournament practice, for example). Other types of experience, especially the type that mimics the environment helps a lot. Stressed training can be important versus unstressed training.

Deliberate practice is really important up to a point and then it really stops differentiating the good from the best (Dr. Brooke MacNamara)

The future of the field

We will see more work around the topic. Topics like stress or grit will be explored more. Sian Beilock, for example looks at the topic of stress and Angela Duckworth has looked at grit in her research and published Grit.