Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, But It Helps
And now the bad news: if you’ve been playing a sport for 20 years and you’re not getting better, you probably never will. Practice can only do so much. How much, exactly, has been calculated by psychologists at Princeton University, who scoured the scientific literature for studies examining practice and performance in domains as diverse as music, games, sports, professions, and education. The Association for Psychological Science reports that, based on a meta-analysis of 88 studies that attempted to equate practice with expertise, the researchers found that overall, practice accounts for only about 12 percent of individual differences observed in performance across the various domains. What does make a difference? The researchers suggest that the age at which a person begins a particular activity matters, and oh yeah, “certain cognitive abilities” also play a role. Here’s the interesting part: the psychologists found that practice accounted for about 26 percent of individual differences in performance for games, about 21 percent of individual differences in music, and about 18 percent of individual differences in sports. But it only accounted for about 4 percent of individual differences in education and less than 1 percent of individual differences in performance in professions– like psychology.