#TrueOrFalse: The 10,000 Hour Rule

By Udeet Datta & Sam Marquez

The Theory: The 10,000 Hour Rule

The 10,000 hour has been considered a rule of thumb in the area of developing expertise. Popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, it was argued that a person can become an expert if roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is invested, to any field.

The Verdict: False

What does the research say?

  • Gladwell’s postulated 10,000 hour rule was mainly based on a 1993 study, that had demonstrated that the best violin players at a Berlin music academy had accumulated an average 10,000 hours of practice, logged by the time they reached the age of 20.
  • A new Princeton study reveals that the 10,000 hour rule is a actually a gross oversimplification. In a meta-analysis of 88 studies on deliberate practice, the researchers found that practice accounted for just a 12% difference in performance within the various domains. Additionally, the performance outcome that deliberate practice can account for varied wildly from one domain to another:
    • 26% in games
    • 21% in music
    • 18% in sports
    • 4% in education
    • 1% in the professions
  • The reasons for this high amount of variability are due to the degree to which the ‘rules’ are well-specified and consistent feedback can be easily collected for improvement. This explains why deliberate practice is much easier in say, football, than in the professional sphere. In the game of football, the rules are clear, feedback is immediate, and it is much easier to get an idea of how to improve. In the professional sphere, rules can shift and it can be more difficult to access reliable feedback.

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