• Question: Hello, Is there or do you believe that there is such thing as being born with a talent? Is it the hard work that parents put into developing a child in a certain area whether it's in an academic way, a sporty way or a musical way. Do you know if there is such thing as being born to be good at something. If you don't know, what do you think? Because I've always believed when someone says I'm born to be good at Music, or Maths, or Football. I think to myself that it's just the way my parents brought me up. Thank you for your time reading this. Josh

    Asked by predatorian to Cassie, Greg, Karen, Sofia, Tommy on 7 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Thomas Doherty-Bone

      Thomas Doherty-Bone answered on 7 Nov 2013:

      Hi Josh,
      Human beings are NOT born as “blank slates”. Because of natural variation in traits such as height, or features of the brain (such as aspects of the cerebral cortex, or ratios of white to grey matter….I don’t fully understand how this works and I’m not sure other scientists really do either), different people will be born with different natural abilities. i.e. Someone born tall is likely to do well in basketball! Of course it is possible for people to learn how to do things they are not naturally gifted at, but it will be harder for them compared to others. That said, there is still a good case for nurture, i.e. the environment one is brought up in. I am not myself naturally gifted in music or languages (the two are linked), but doesn’t mean I give up and not bother. But you work on these things, put in more effort, you can still get above average on something you might not be naturally gifted at. Further reading? see Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate”, either book or online lecture on YouTube.
      I hope this helps,

    • Photo: Sofia Franco

      Sofia Franco answered on 8 Nov 2013:

      Hey Josh,
      There is this huge discussion amongst biologists: What influences more a person, nature or nurture? Nature is what you get when you are born and nurture is what you are given by your parents, your experiences, etc. Anyway, we have been going at this for years and we still cannot agree! The general consensus is that both are really important: you can be born with a specific talent (as you call it) but the way it develops will also come from your experiences and how you embrace it! I really think everyone is born being good in something, it is just a matter of finding what and work on it! We all have different gene sets so it makes sense that some will be naturally better in some things than others! I was always great in Maths, but I have colleagues that would just not get it, while for me it was intuitive…however, they would beat me in other things, like some Dancing, that I could never grasp, as I am really bad in learning choreographies! And this is just the way it is, however, some of them did get quite high grades in the exams, due to their huge effort, and I can tell you that many years after I am just now starting to be able to actually follow (though not for long) some choreographies! Hard work does go a long way when it comes to getting better in something!

    • Photo: Cassandra Raby

      Cassandra Raby answered on 9 Nov 2013:

      Hi Josh

      Your question is great – because it asks the question that so many biologists are asking! Both Tom and Sofia make great points about this question – that both nature and nurture are important.

      But how much of each??

      There was one thought (made by a man called Malcolm Gladwell) that said that everyone could be just as good as someone else if you practiced hard enough – and if a person (no matter whether they were naturally born talented or not) did 10,000 hours of practice then they would be as good as any professional!
      That’s a lot of hours, and this was called the ‘magic number of greatness’!

      But scientists don’t like to just believe something… they like to test it! And so that’s what they did.

      So after testing this theory by looking at what made people ‘talented’, their research instead showed that each persons abilities they were born with explain two thirds (66%) of the reason why people are talented, and the amount of practice was important for one third (33%) of the talent.

      But there is still so much discussion in this area – and different research is finding different answers.
      To sum it up like the other two said – it’s a bit of both!

    • Photo: Karen Bacon

      Karen Bacon answered on 14 Nov 2013:

      Hi Josh,
      I think the other scientists have answered this for you! But I’m in agreement – it’s a mixture of genetics (nature) and opportunity (nurture). Someone could have all the genetics to be a great musician but never get the chance to learn. On the other hand I think that with effort, most people can be reasonably good at most things. And even people who are talented at sport or science or music still have to work really hard to be really good.