The Creativity Debate

Talent or Practice – What Matters More?

A variety of perspectives on the origins of greatness.

The Nature and Nurture of Talent

Specific forms of intelligence (spatial, mathematical, interpersonal/social) play a crucial role in channeling a person down the path of science and its specific form (physical science, biological science, and social science). But interacting with these largely genetically based forms of intellectual capacity is the nurturance of these talents by family, teachers, and culture. Innate talent is wasted when not nurtured by parents, teachers, and society. I propose a pyramidal model of talent and training wherein talent and training form a mutually reinforcing developmental pyramid of achievement.

I agree that environmental factors matter and are even important. They are not, however, sufficient to explain all of the variance in talent. My disagreement, therefore, is when authors argue that natural talent (genetic and non-genetic) has almost no role whatsoever to play in success and achievement. My position is this:  Nature shapes nurture just as nurture shapes nature. One does not exist independently of the other. Talent is not only in our genome but also in our epigenome, shaped and influenced by experience. Scientific talent results from a dynamic back and forth between natural talent and nurtured training. In short, I argue that scientific talent is natural talent, shaped by nurture.

In sum, the science of psychology, neuroscience, and genetics have come too far since the days of Galton and Candolle to go back to the nature versus nurture positions that argued exclusively for either one or the other being most important. Nature versus nurture is dead. Scientific talent is nature shaped by nurture.

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