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Talent: Innate or Learned? A look at Musical development.

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Presentation on theme: "Talent: Innate or Learned? A look at Musical development."— Presentation transcript:

1 Talent: Innate or Learned? A look at Musical development

2 Learning objectives Discuss problems with defining talent and the main properties of innate talent. Evaluate evidence for and against the talent account. Argue ones own opinion on the nature/nuture debate of talent using evidence from a variety of different perspectives (like those provided in commentaries). Verbally articulate your opinion of the talent account and be able to defend it. (2 things to remember))

3 The Talent account The view that exceptional accomplishments depend on a special biological potential that can be identified in some young children but not others. (Howe, Davidson, and Sloboda, 1998)

4 Defining Talent Problems if definition is….. Too restrictive an inborn ability that makes it certain its possessor will excel Too vague those who reach high levels of achievement differ biologically from others in some undefined way.

5 5 properties of (innate) talent (Howe, Davidson, and Sloboda 1998) 1.) originates in genes and therefore is at least partly genetic 2.) The existence of early indicators of the presence of a talent 3.) Early indicators which allow prediction 4.) Only a minority talented 5.) Talents are relatively domain-specific

6 Why is it important to examine the validity of the talent account? Researchers as well as educators rely on the talent account –Davis (1994) - more than 3/4ths! Social/Educational implications- Young people not identified as having innate talents in a particular area may not be encouraged or helped to achieve high levels of competence

7 Supporting evidence 1.) Early emergence of skills (in absence of learning opportunities) 2.) Evidence of special capacities that facilitate acquisition of specific abilities 3.) Biological correlates of certain abilities 4.) Unusual capacities of autistic savants (in absence of learning opportunities)

8 Early emergence of skills (in absence of learning opportunities) Child prodigies -Mozart – composing at 5 yrs! -Stravinsky - amazed parents by imitating local singers at age 2 -Rubenstein - claimed to have mastered piano before he could speak - Nyiregyhazi - (Hungarian) reproduced simple songs at age 2 play mouth organ at age 4

9 Evidence of special capacities that facilitate acquisition of specific abilities A special capacity is something that may make it easier for someone to acquire a certain skill. Perfect or Absolute pitch - ability to name and sing specified pitches without a reference pitch.

10 Biological correlates of certain abilities 1.) Electrocortical measures (e.g. evoked potentials) 2.) Hemispheric laterality 3.) Saccadic eye movements 4.) Brain images e.g. Cortical representation of the digits of the left hand in violinists is larger than in control subjects (Schlaug 1995)

11 Unusual capacities of autistic savants (in absence of learning opportunities) A 5 year old autistic boy with learning difficulties could reproduce a heard melody, but also could improvise in ways that conformed to musical convention (Miller, 1989). Derek Paravicini (Fragments of Genius video) is totally blind and has a severe learning disability, but he plays the piano like a professional musician, with perfect pitch. All he has to do is listen to a piece of music once and he can reproduce it exactly. (MY EXAMPLE) Nadia & Stephen Wiltshire (Artistic savants)

12 Evidence against Talent account 1.) Weak supporting evidence (criticisms of positive evidence by Howe et al. 1998) 2.) Substantial amount of negative evidence 3.) Evidence of other influences (practice/environment) contributing to talent

13 Weak supporting evidence for early signs of talent (i.e.prodigies) Evidence is retrospective or biased (parental reports/autobiographical) Early biographies reveal intensive and regular training over several years (Lehmann, 1997)

14 Weak supporting evidence (for capacities facilitating special abilities) - Musicians with absolute pitch are not always more successful than those without it. - Evidence that it can be learned (Sergent & Roche 1973; Brady 1970;Sloboda 1985;Takeuchi &Hulse, 1993)

15 Weak supporting evidence (for biological correlates) - Although there is abundant evidence of neural correlates of ability, There is no direct evidence of specific gene (neural predictor) causing specific kinds of expertise. - In instances where they have located specific area (e.g. violinists), the biological differences could be the effects rather than the cause. - Twin studies suggests strong role of environment in musical ability (Coon & Carey 1989) (Lykken - apart.44 together -.69)

16 Weak supporting evidence (for autistic savants) - Many autistic savants spend hours a day concentrating on their special interests. -Their savant ability could be due to obsessive narrowed interest rather than an innate ability in that area.

17 Substantial amount of negative evidence No evidence of early signs of special abilities (except few autistic savants) –Interviewed 21 outstanding pianists & their parents (Sosniak 1985;1990) –Biographical study with professional musicians in Poland (Manturzewska 1986) –Questionnaire – Early interest in musical sounds failed to predict later musical competence (Howe et al. 1995)

18 Substantial amount of negative evidence Absence of differences in ease of learning between talented individuals and others. - No diff between talented and other children in practice time required to progress between grades in British musical board exams. (Sloboda et al. 1996; Sloboda 1996) - All major composers required long periods of training – Hayes (1981) says at least 10 yrs!

19 Alternative influences contributing to musical talent (practice/environment effects = learning) - Strong correlations between level of performance of violinists and hours practiced (Ericsson et al. 1990;1993) - Approx. 3,300 hours of practice needed to achieve highest level of British Associate Board examinations in music, irrespective of ability group assigned to initially (Sloboda 1996) - Certain musical accomplishments are more common in non-Western cultures than our own (Blacking 1973 ;Feld 1984; Sloboda et al. 1994). May be due to opportunities to learn (Super, 1976).

20 Summary Defining Innate Talent (5 properties) Evidence in support of Talent account A lot of evidence against Talent account Alternatives to Talent Account Conclude: Talent account is not totally wrong, but exaggerated and oversimplified.

21 Conclusions 1.) originates in genes and therefore is at least partly genetic (OK) 2.) The existence of early indicators of the presence of a talent 3.) Early indicators which allow prediction 4.) Only a minority talented (OK) 5.) Talents are relatively domain-specific

22 Conclusions Should we retain the concept of innate talent even though 3 criteria not met? For academic purposes say its OK. Problematic in practice because may be used to justify selectivity and discrimination

23 References Howe, J.A., Davidson, J.W., Sloboda, J.A. (1998). Innate Talents:Reality or Myth? Brain and Behavioural Sciences, 21, 299-442. Read Commentaries after the paper. And authors response to comments. Go to e-journals on library services. Look under B for Behavioural and Brain sciences. Click on link which says show back volumes. Click on 1998 Vol 21. Then click on Issue 3 June 1998. Finally click on PDF icon at top or bottom of pg. To open article and commentaries


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