\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Child prodigies: nature vs nurture? (Read 12128 times)

Offline faa2010

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 536
Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
« on: November 15, 2012, 05:55:01 PM »
I have listened that composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Alkan were child prodigies.

However, I found out in their biographies that during their childhood they were exposed to the music because of their families. Either the family had musicians or they were getting music lessons because the family wanted. Also add the resources the family had to musical education and popularity.

I understand that in order to activate an ability one has had to be exposed to an item or event related to the activity.  Some have the facility, others don't, but in both groups the geniuses can come. And in the end inner motivation has become the key to continue and success (maybe).

What do you think?, have you heard of children or young people who didn't required a lot of external stimulation to become prodigies?

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #1 on: November 15, 2012, 06:06:02 PM »


Musical exposure has nothing to do with the learning curve, but simply the ability to exercise a life talent that might have gone ignored without the exposure.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline rachmaninoff_forever

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4903
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #2 on: November 15, 2012, 11:57:15 PM »


Musical exposure has nothing to do with the learning curve, but simply the ability to exercise a life talent that might have gone ignored without the exposure.

What the *** how old is he?!

And what's the name of that video?
Live large, die large.  Leave a giant coffin.

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 09:11:14 AM »
He's five, according to the description.  And he plays like crap. ::)

Why are people so impressed by this?  Yes, he's 5 and doing something that most 5-yr-olds can't do.  But the reason most 5-yr-olds can't do it is simply because they haven't learned how.

It's like speaking 4 different languages.  If you're American, that's genius!  If you're eastern European, your neighbor can speak six.

Offline rachmaninoff_forever

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4903
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #4 on: November 16, 2012, 12:55:04 PM »

Why are people so impressed by this?  Yes, he's 5 and doing something that most 5-yr-olds can't do.  But the reason most 5-yr-olds can't do it is simply because they haven't learned how.



But that still doesn't change the fact that he's five with REALLY good technique for a five year old.

You also forgot to give me the name of that video.
Live large, die large.  Leave a giant coffin.

Offline shaggyy

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 18
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #5 on: November 16, 2012, 02:14:49 PM »
Wow! And those hands, they are so small, how is it possible he can play like that?  :o

And the Dutch pianist Wibi Soerjadi comes from a family without musicians. He began to play at age 11, so he hadn't had much external stimulation, and 8 years later he won the third prize at the International Liszt Concours! And he also played Rach's second piano concert when he was only 13 and has also composed some amazingly good pieces. But Valentina Lisitsa for example told in an interview that she played from her third and she hated it then, but she had to please her parents.

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #6 on: November 17, 2012, 03:09:05 AM »
He's five, according to the description.  And he plays like crap. ::)

Why are people so impressed by this?  Yes, he's 5 and doing something that most 5-yr-olds can't do.  But the reason most 5-yr-olds can't do it is simply because they haven't learned how.

When I was five, I slammed my fingers in windows and car doors on a regular basis.  I fell down and cried alot.  I lost my new jacket everyday at recess. I'm pretty sure I ate glue as well.

Exposure is one thing, but learning to play by age 5 at a fairly decent skill level is quite impressive.  Even if he was literally born on a piano, many people playing for 5 years can't do anything like that.  Saying "he sucks" is like saying a 25 year old sucks after playing for a couple years.  Age doesn't matter, it's about the learning curve.

It's like speaking 4 different languages.  If you're American, that's genius!  If you're eastern European, your neighbor can speak six.

This is hardly comparable.  It's more comparative to say that someone in eastern Europe learned 4 languages before his twin could say his own name.

Rach_4eva, if you click the top black bar, it links to the actual youtube page.  You're welcome for all these life lessons.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #7 on: November 17, 2012, 04:26:28 AM »
This months issue of Scientific American Mind is about genius.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=introducing-the-genius-issue

Intelligence is a hot topic for most people because of how salient it is in our cultures.  It is discussed indirectly every day simply by using words such as "stupid, "dumb, "smart, "bright", etc.  You can also hear these words every time you turn on the television.  As a result of the use of these words, we are reminded of how important it is and how important it is not to be stupid.

For this very reason, the so called "child prodigy" has been placed upon a pedestal as something of a freak.  It's easier to think of them as fundamentally different because we can't fathom how any "normal" person can achieve such things.

From the words of these labeled "child prodigies", they are normal like everyone else.  They just do things differently, mainly they say, that they have tenacity, persistence, and perseverance, behaviors that very few people express.  Compared to them, most people give up way too easily, probably for fear of looking stupid because they've learned that trying hard = stupid.

Anyone who thinks they fall on the lower end of the bell curve will behave in ways which conform to the stereotype of low intelligence.  And since stupidity is looked down upon, low self-esteem can result which leads to many social and behavioral ills.

Here'a  link to the webpage for the magazine, SA: Mind  Full articles are only accessible to subscribers but you can preview the articles.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/sciammind/

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #8 on: November 17, 2012, 06:00:08 AM »
I didn't post that youtube video to state that someone is a prodigy.  I was simply stating that nature defines the learning curve, nurture just allows that learning curve to begin.

In regards to that, effort only gets you so far.  My roommate and I in college shared one of my majors.  We took many of the same classes.  I skipped them, half assed a lot of the homework and didn't put much effort in.  He is dumb as rocks, and no matter the amount of effort he put in, he will still be dumb as rocks.  I scored higher than him in every single class. He is dumb because he can't perform, not because he chose to accept being dumb because society pushed it on him.  In no way am I claiming to be superior across the board, I'm simply saying that intelligence isn't bestowed upon you by societal titles.  These titles exist for a reason, and they are based on something tangible. 

There is, as you mentioned, a bell curve.  People at the bottom of the bell curve are going to stay there regardless of what names you call them, just as people at the top will stay there.  In the current generation of PC-parenting, every child is told they are the smartest in the class.  If the societal title theory were true, the test results shouldn't end up showing a curve.  The curve exists from raw intelligence coupled with effort.

The reason intelligent people end up putting more effort in is that they can see the tangible results from their effort.   The 'dumb' people get discouraged because they simply won't perform like someone else who is more naturally talented. It's good that people are discouraged from things in which they can't perform as well as others.  There are jobs in every category.  Realizing you suck at something affords you more time to find something you are good at. The 'prodigies' just find it before everyone else.

Personally, I find the issue with the intelligence title is not about comparison within a category.  The main issue comes in that certain fields are regarded as intelligent while others are not.  No matter how well you perform in a specific category comparative to everyone else, if you suck at something in the 'intelligent category', you're considered dumb.  These global titles are an issue, but it still won't discourage a football player from performing his job at a professional level even if he can't do quantum physics.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline rachmaninoff_forever

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4903
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #9 on: November 17, 2012, 06:16:21 AM »


Rach_4eva, if you click the top black bar, it links to the actual youtube page.  You're welcome for all these life lessons.

Doesn't show on iPads  :(
Live large, die large.  Leave a giant coffin.

Offline ajspiano

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3392
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #10 on: November 17, 2012, 07:00:17 AM »
Doesn't show on iPads  :(

If you hit "quote" on the post, to reply to it..  it will show the youtube link - as it will be part of the new post..

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 8213
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #11 on: November 17, 2012, 07:10:04 AM »
It's good that people are discouraged from things in which they can't perform as well as others. 

So you think I should listen to my smarter side and quit trying to desperately learn something that I obviously lack the talent for? ;D

Offline j_menz

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 10150
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #12 on: November 17, 2012, 07:29:09 AM »
The reason intelligent people end up putting more effort in is that they can see the tangible results from their effort.   The 'dumb' people get discouraged because they simply won't perform like someone else who is more naturally talented. It's good that people are discouraged from things in which they can't perform as well as others. 

** guesses you place yourself in the "intelligent" category

** wonders why  ::)
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left" -- Oscar Levant

Offline 49410enrique

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3542
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #13 on: November 17, 2012, 01:29:41 PM »
w regard to the aforementioned video, i think they were too generous with the attributing 'prodigy' to the somewhat talented little dude....


*thrrrrrp!

Offline rachmaninoff_forever

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4903
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #14 on: November 17, 2012, 01:42:54 PM »
If you hit "quote" on the post, to reply to it..  it will show the youtube link - as it will be part of the new post..

Oh dear I didn't think of that. :-[
Live large, die large.  Leave a giant coffin.

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #15 on: November 17, 2012, 05:28:45 PM »
So you think I should listen to my smarter side and quit trying to desperately learn something that I obviously lack the talent for? ;D

That would imply having a smarter side.

**hides.

** guesses you place yourself in the "intelligent" category

** wonders why  ::)

 :'(

I actually place myself in the "self-centered" category.  Intelligence is irrelevant due to my clear superiority regardless of performance or effort.  In slightly more seriousness,  I am in the "intelligent" category in one field that I've been able to find and succeed in.  In another field, I'm in the "dumb" category (I actually had a paragraph about how I suck at piano and nobody bothered to inform me). This was the point of my last paragraph. Some fields are considered intelligent whether you are in the bottom 10% or the top 10%, Doctors as an example. On the other hand, a nurse might be considered dumb even if they are in the top 10% of nurses simply because they aren't a doctor.  These are the silly comparisons that actually discourage people.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 8213
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #16 on: November 17, 2012, 05:41:52 PM »
That would imply having a smarter side.


It says hello...does not care to talk to people much because they seem so dumb...  8)

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #17 on: November 17, 2012, 06:30:15 PM »
The reason intelligent people end up putting more effort in is that they can see the tangible results from their effort.   The 'dumb' people get discouraged because they simply won't perform like someone else who is more naturally talented. It's good that people are discouraged from things in which they can't perform as well as others.  There are jobs in every category.  Realizing you suck at something affords you more time to find something you are good at. The 'prodigies' just find it before everyone

I don't doubt that this is the case.

However, what "intelligent" people have is simply a better fundamental understanding of the underpinnings of the way things work.  This means they work smarter, not necessarily harder.  The dumb ones simply work harder, pushing against brick walls to no avail.  It's because of their intelligence that they give up since they realize they are wasting energy.  If these dumb ones learned the smarter ways, they'll achieve just as much as the intelligent people and maybe become an intelligent person.

I knew a guy who was an idiot at the piano.  He practiced hours and hours a day and you would never know it because he sucked.  He genuinely thought he had no talent since he started playing as an adult, whereas everyone he knew in school started before the age of 10.  His teachers couldn't help him and two of them passed him off because they didn't want a no-talent student.  His last teacher, he decided not to take lessons from anymore because he simply wasn't improving.

Is this an example of someone on the lower end of the bell curve?

I knew another guy who, when he played, looked a natural and could play incredibly difficult pieces with ease.  He wasn't just playing the piano but making music as well.  He didn't practice much and always said he wished he was more dedicated to practice because he knew he could be much better if he practiced more.  But he didn't.  In his own words, "I'm lazy."  (The truth was that he didn't like spending so much time in a practice room.  He'd rather spend those hours with people.)  Those teachers of the previously mentioned student was quite impressed by this student.  One of them wanted this student to be in his studio and was envious of the teacher who had him.

Is this an example of someone on the upper end of the bell curve?

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #18 on: November 17, 2012, 10:03:49 PM »
Yes and yes.  I'm sure that's a trick question, but I realize that society views them from different perspectives which allow them different opportunities.  But as I said before, those titles are based on something tangible.  I also completely agree that quality over quantity in the case of effort does have a significant effect.  Regardless of that aspect of learning, some people are simply born with a leg up in SPECIFIC categories.  I suck at history not from a lack of effort, but because I simply and truly have a terrible memory.  I excel at math because I am talented in deductive reasoning as opposed to just memorizing any of the building blocks.  People have definitely told me I have a terrible memory, and that perspective is based on the tangible concept that I show up to the train on my commute to work with my wallet still sitting on my dresser, next to my keys, which are on top of the summary of my presentation at 9:00.  It's awesome waiting 4 hours for my super to show up and let me in... I do realize this isn't necessarily the best example for memory, but I feel it's still relevant.

As a personal perspective into it, I have complex partial seizures.  It originates in my left temporal lobe.  (I'm sure you know all this, but...) This is an area of the brain that controls long term memory and memory retrieval.  I understand my example was in short-term memory, and it was just what popped into my head at the time.  Regardless I do have issues with long-term memories (which is probably why I can't remember them at the moment  ;D).  Basically, this puts me in the 'dumb' category of memory.  It's not because people told me I have a poor memory, it's because i have a benign brain tumor in my left temporal lobe.  This is also what puts me in the dumb category of History.  And the dumb category of knowing people's names and faces.  Side note... these also can cause irritability, agitation and childish behavior.  I clearly display none of these, so it's completely irrelevant  ::).

There do exist prodigies, and they definitely are exceptions.  People with photographic memory are perfect examples.  99.99999% of the population can't remember the 275th word in a book they read in 5th grade.  The fact that these people exist makes them prodigies in a specific category.  Similarly, I'm sure there are people born with retro-grade amnesia (or whatever it's called without an injury).  They are on the 'dumb' side of the spectrum.  Basically what my point is is that no one is a prodigy across the board.  Nobody is 'dumb' across the board.  Everyone has talents, everyone has weaknesses.  These are results of nature, but nurture can definitely have influences on them.  I simply can't believe that everything can be boiled down to societal perspectives and self-fulfilling viewpoints.  Not that you said it's the case, I just think nature is much more influential than nurture.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #19 on: November 18, 2012, 12:09:24 AM »
Would you be surprised that the examples of the two people I mentioned were, in fact, the same person?  That person, was me.  I was that idiot on the piano who had two teachers not want me to be their student.  After I stopped taking lessons from any teacher, I learned how to play.  Playing became so easy and effortless that it amazes me how I didn't figure out sooner.  One of my former teachers (who happens to be rather famous concert pianist) became upset at himself for kicking me out of his studio.  I still remember how much I impressed him at my make-up jury when he said, "that's remarkable."  I still remember the time when I walked in on him performing for his students and he became so noticeably nervous that his hand started shaking the moment he looked up and saw me.  It was then that I realized how far I came from where I was stuck before.

Quote
People with photographic memory are perfect examples.
There is no such thing as photographic memory.  No one has it nor has anyone ever had it.  Photographic memory is an urban legend.

Quote
It originates in my left temporal lobe... This is an area of the brain that controls long term memory and memory retrieval
The left temporal lob is not an area that controls long term memory nor is it specific for memory retrieval.  The central relay station of memory is the hippocampus and related structures.  This is where information is relayed from various parts of the brain to reconstruct a memory.

A memory is actually stored across many areas of the brain.  E.g. sitting in a park and you see a red bird.  Sitting is stored in one area, the concept of a park is stored in another area; a bird in another; the color red in another.  It is only when all of these are activated in succession that the memory of sitting in a park and seeing a red bird is accurately recalled.

For this reason, I highly doubt that you actually have a memory deficit.  You just think you do and one of the findings in psychology is that thinking that something is true makes it true; otherwise known as the self-fullfilling prophecy.  False attribution and confirmation bias also comes into play in facilitating the self-fullfilling prophecy.

What people who have "good" memory do is rehearse, better known to musicians by the term "practice".  It's highly probably that you don't naturally rehearse needed information.  This behavior can be seen in children who have poor memory; they simply don't rehearse.  However, when taught to rehearse information, they end up having what can be described as "good memory".  They are the same person, but what they do is differently which makes all the difference between having good and bad memory.  Practice.

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 8213
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #20 on: November 18, 2012, 06:43:51 AM »
What people who have "good" memory do is rehearse, better known to musicians by the term "practice".  It's highly probably that you don't naturally rehearse needed information.  This behavior can be seen in children who have poor memory; they simply don't rehearse.  However, when taught to rehearse information, they end up having what can be described as "good memory".  They are the same person, but what they do is differently which makes all the difference between having good and bad memory.  Practice.

I'm afraid this is exactly the type of "advice" that makes poor achievers into complete losers. Tell them to just practice something that they simply cannot do while others just do it with little effort and can get even better with practice. Our lifetime is not long enough to do infinite practice, so to prove your point is impossible. The fact that something has worked on one person proves nothing.

The key to being successful in life is not trying desperately to do something that is impossible but learning to compensate, find ways around the difficulties and focus on one's strenghts.

It's fine to hit your head to the wall when it's just a passionate hobby (at least I think so?), but when it comes to real life goals and career one needs to get to know one's own limitations and accept them.

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #21 on: November 18, 2012, 06:14:57 PM »
I'm afraid this is exactly the type of "advice" that makes poor achievers into complete losers. Tell them to just practice something that they simply cannot do while others just do it with little effort and can get even better with practice. Our lifetime is not long enough to do infinite practice, so to prove your point is impossible. The fact that something has worked on one person proves nothing.

I'm not talking about practicing something you cannot do.  I'm talking about simply repeating where you left your keys (on the table) or where you parked your car (at the Tuesday street cleaning side).  These simply rehearsal techniques are what ingrains needed information for later use.

I do have good memory because I naturally rehearse information.  When I don't rehearse information, I can't recall where I parked my car.  This occurred too often recently and I didn't know why.  It turned out I was simply not bothering to rehearse this information like I usually do.  Hence the reason I walked around the block, up and down the streets not knowing where the hell it was.

There is a neurological reason why repeating information ingrains it into memory.  Synapse strength increases the more it is used.  This strengthening is what results in memory.

Offline outin

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 8213
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #22 on: November 18, 2012, 09:08:25 PM »
I'm not talking about practicing something you cannot do.

Actually you are. Because what you don't seem to understand/believe/whatever is that for some people the kind of "rehearsing" the memory is either too difficult, useless or both. Some people just do not have what it takes, be it from neurological reasons or something else. Some improvement is probably possible, but they will never become such good memorizers that some people are naturally without any special effort. So it's more useful to develope the other intellectual skills to compensate and there are actually activities/professions where one can be very successful without good memory.

I have problems with both sequental memory and memory for details. I also have trouble concentrating on details long enough to even try to do the types of practice that is recommended for memory issues. I went to school for 12 years and university for about 6 years and all that time I had to practice my memory. We did not even have internet. As a kid I tried to play chess and learn the piano and struggled because of memory issues. And my memory never became any better. I sucked at 1st grade and I still sucked at the university.

But in the end I did pretty well, because after the first years I had learned other methods to solve the problems at hand than using my memory. When I couldn't remember a physics formula in a test, I developed it from the sctrach. When I couldn't remember all the details of a certain theory I concentrated on showing that I had understood it and it's relevance. Instead of learning to remember I learned to solve problems and invent things. I chose not to hit my head to the wall and just went around it. I found a career where I do not need to remember much, it's enough to be good at scanning through large chunks of information finding what's relevant, solve problems, see things from the larger perspective and know how to find and understand information fast when necessary. Being able to easily erase my mind between things actually is sometimes a benefit.

I am not convinced that I can go around the memory issues playing the piano, but I am going to try anyway, because I enjoy the ride :)

There are probably individuals who CAN become significantly better with practice since they don't have any special problems related to memory, they are just lazy. But you cannot know which case it is without an empirical trial, so it would be silly to make such assumptions.

But I will probably never be able to convince you because you haven't lived with a brain unlike yours and you seem to value your own experience much when analyzing things.

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #23 on: November 19, 2012, 12:39:11 AM »
I can not comment very much on your specific circumstances.  However, generally speaking, the aforementioned advice works for people with so-called bad memory.  It has been shown in psychological experiments to work wonders with all subjects showing improvement in memory recall.  The difference was rehearsing information or not.

If you had scans from an MRI/CT which shows the brain structures that are affected by your tumor, it might help me out to understand your circumstances.  I don't mean to denigrate your situation by asserting that what has shown to work in experiments with subjects without pre-esisting medical conditions will apply to you.

As a teacher/tutor, one common behavior I often receive is that students think they are cognitively incapable of doing something and will assert that this is the case until I show them otherwise.  Only when I show them that they can actually do something do they change their perspective about themselves, at least for that specific cognitive task.

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #24 on: November 20, 2012, 07:28:12 PM »
Would you be surprised that the examples of the two people I mentioned were, in fact, the same person?  That person, was me.

No, as I said I assumed it was a trick question :P.  Giving two clearly deceptive examples doesn't actually support your point.  The whole story needs to be revealed to make a proper judgement.  Just because I answered a specific question with a small amount of information doesn't actually mean that the categorization and rankings don't exist.  When given the whole story and comparative cases, the rankings are still tangible.

There is no such thing as photographic memory.  No one has it nor has anyone ever had it.  Photographic memory is an urban legend.

I'm not sure if you're playing semantics here, but this is simply untrue.  It's called eidetic memory.  Like any medical condition, it's not as popular media displays it and it shouldn't be taken absolutely literal.  Saying it doesn't exist is like saying heart attacks don't exist but myocardial infarctions do.  It applies to very specific memorization, and it isn't perfectly literal as it's displayed in shows like "Suits".  While one person may remember the 275th word in a book they read ages ago, someone else could instead remember 10,000 digits of pi. Neither of them may be capable of performing the other's 'ability', but saying this is purely based on practice is absurd.

I can not comment very much on your specific circumstances.  However, generally speaking, the aforementioned advice works for people with so-called bad memory.  It has been shown in psychological experiments to work wonders with all subjects showing improvement in memory recall.  The difference was rehearsing information or not.

This is exactly where my point lies.  This "improvement" is not the same as "equality".  Everyone has potential to improve in everything they do.  The point is that some people will excel in this improvement while others will lag behind them.  The big picture of improvement is statistically significant or they wouldn't have come to that conclusion, but I think I'm safely assuming that every individual did not perform or improve equally nor did they have the same starting point.

The brain is a bodily organ like any other one.  Some people are genetically predisposed to heart failure.  If/when they have a heart attack, is it just because people have told them their entire lives that they would have one?  Obviously there are nurture aspects to this, i.e. exercise and diet.  But when comparing people with equal nurture behaviors, the predisposition becomes apparent and statistically significant.  Sure the brain is significantly more complex, but wouldn't that mean it's even more likely to have a wide range of natural performance differences?

Pre-existing medical conditions are an exact example of nature in action.  I didn't want to go into extreme details of my epilepsy as it would have taken 20 pages of essays, I just had a personal example that explains my point.  My epilepsy is very subtle, they are very short and are not apparent to outside observers.  This is why it went undiagnosed for half my life.  The reason I actually ended up being diagnosed was because of specific memory issues.  When having my seizures, I would be able to comprehend everything that was going on as well as recall what happened immediately afterward.  Later in the day, I would have absolutely no idea what had happened and would have large blank spots in my memory centered around the seizure.  The reason I ended up even seeing a doctor is that my parents were concerned that I couldn't recall large chunks of my day, even when they were present for them and I communicated with them.  Before my seizures were fully under control, I had worked with neuro-psychologists with the intent of improving my recollection.  Through several methods I was able to improve it (mainly journaling, although this didn't help me actually recall it but just informed me as to what happened).  This is nature in action.  Encouraging me to find methods of remembering these blank spots that I'm physically unable to do demonstrates that brains are not born equal.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #25 on: November 20, 2012, 10:02:09 PM »
I do believe that people do have differences that manifest themselves in differing capabilities, however, I believe most assertions of incapabilities are based on false attributions, e.g. being born smart of stupid.  These false attributions are what limit what a person thinks he can do, and as a result, he simply gives up when the evidence confirms this; e.g. practicing hours with little to show = I'm a bad pianist.

This is why I was the bad pianist in the first example.  When I finally taught myself to play, I became the good pianist in the second example.  The difference was with the how, not the end result.  Bad pianists focus on the end result.  Good ones focus on the process.


About photographic memory, I am not arguing semantics.  There is no such thing.  Photographic memory is an urban myth that is not supported by scientific evidence.  All those who have been tested with claimed eidetic memory have been shown to use mnemonics as a way to memorize vast amounts of information.  With mnemonics, 10,000 digits of pi can be easily recited; entire cityscapes can be reconstructed; 1,000 names and faces can be recalled; etc.  Mnemonic techniques have existed for millennia and anyone can use them to improve recall.  Photographic memory, however, simply does not exist nor has it ever existed.


Quote
This "improvement" is not the same as "equality".  Everyone has potential to improve in everything they do.  The point is that some people will excel in this improvement while others will lag behind them.  The big picture of improvement is statistically significant or they wouldn't have come to that conclusion, but I think I'm safely assuming that every individual did not perform or improve equally nor did they have the same starting point.

This is an opinion that most people subscribe to including experts in the field.  However, the difference between the two is blown out of proportion - making mountains out of mole hills; aka. psych: "contrast effect".  I do believe that mole hills exist between two normal people and evidence shows that between normal people, mole hills can be developed into mountains with time and effort.  The main difference is the factor of time.  One will achieve mountain-hood in less time but given enough time, the other will achieve the same heights.

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #26 on: November 20, 2012, 11:40:34 PM »
I do believe that people do have differences that manifest themselves in differing capabilities, however, I believe most assertions of incapabilities are based on false attributions, e.g. being born smart of stupid.  These false attributions are what limit what a person thinks he can do, and as a result, he simply gives up when the evidence confirms this; e.g. practicing hours with little to show = I'm a bad pianist.

I'm not sure it's false assertions, but comparative and/or assertions of practicality.  People tend to make education black and white.  Everyone is either good at history or math, but not both.  While possibly encouraging self-restriction, this isn't necessarily bad in a world that is highly specialized.  The prototypical "Renaissance Man" is a tough role to fill in a world of exponentially increasing knowledge.  Saying you're "dumb" at something on a comparative basis is going to be beneficial to you as long as you don't waste the time you gained from choosing to forego that "dumb" pursuit.

After doing some more reading, I don't think either of us can be sure of our assertions on eidetic memory.  It's still a widely disputed topic, stating that it is either existent or non-existent is probably foolish on both our parts.  That being said, eidetic isn't the only type of memory that falls under the 'photographic memory' umbrella.  I remember seeing a 60 minutes section on a few cases of people that can remember everything that has happened in their lifetime (to a certain extent).  I wasn't completely sure what it was even after looking for it, I think it's hyperthymesia?  Anyway...

In regards to mnemonic devices, aren't they fairly redundant for the tasks previously described?  Having a mnemonic device for 10,000 digits of pi will be just as hard to memorize as 10,000 digits of pi for any individual except one for whom the mnemonic device being used is more easily memorized (WHA?!?!  ;D).  This memorization is then prodigious in and of itself.  In my math nerdery days, I memorized 37 digits of pi for pi day in college (such a nerd, and I lost significantly) without a mnemonic device.  Trying to memorize a mnemonic device for these 37 digits would probably be just as hard as the short term brute force memorization I used.  Self-fulfilling as it may be, I sincerely doubt I'd be able to do significantly more regardless of how I memorized it (I'd guess I could do up to 200 if I cared to).  However, the guy that can remember every word of a book he reads could use a mnemonic poem to apply his superior word memorization to the digits.

This is an opinion that most people subscribe to including experts in the field.  However, the difference between the two is blown out of proportion - making mountains out of mole hills; aka. psych: "contrast effect".  I do believe that mole hills exist between two normal people and evidence shows that between normal people, mole hills can be developed into mountains with time and effort.  The main difference is the factor of time.  One will achieve mountain-hood in less time but given enough time, the other will achieve the same heights.

I think this is where our opinions converge.  However, I think our opinions diverge when it comes to practicality vs. theory.  People only live so long, they need to make money to live, money comes from having a skill set, so on and so forth.  People need to learn something specific and worldly applicable while distinguishing themselves from their companions.  If that 5 year-old pianist was sitting next to me in a job application for a single concert pianist position, I'd walk out the door.  I would have no way of distinguishing myself in a practical length of time, especially given this assumes there is a finite limit on knowledge. The only way to truly test the theory is for someone to live long enough to learn everything possible in the universe.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #27 on: November 21, 2012, 01:51:41 AM »
Quote
I remember seeing a 60 minutes section on a few cases of people that can remember everything that has happened in their lifetime (to a certain extent).  I wasn't completely sure what it was even after looking for it, I think it's hyperthymesia?  Anyway...

These super autobiographical memorizers do something most people don't do on a daily basis: they rehearse the day's events.  It's this rehearsal that allows them to remember what occurred on May 4, 1989.  The psychological tests they underwent were not in any way thorough; they were asked to give declarative statement about events on specified days.  They were not asked about minute details such as how many pigeons were dropping poop on the sidewalk.  I suspect that these minor details were not rehearsed and thus not remembered.

According to the definition of hyperthymesia:
As first described in a 2006 Neurocase article by Elizabeth Parker, Larry Cahill, Dr. Paul Tejera, and James McGaugh, the two defining characteristics of hyperthymesia are "1) the person spends an abnormally large amount of time thinking about his or her personal past, and 2) the person has an extraordinary capacity to recall specific events from his or her personal past"

Quote
I don't think either of us can be sure of our assertions on eidetic memory.

I'm absolutely certain there is no such thing.  This is based both on the psychological literature, which does not support the validity of this phenomenon, and the neurological mechanisms of memory formation which simply can't process such massive amounts of information with any kind of fidelity.  In actuality, our memory for what just occurred is very fuzzy.  It only crystalizes with repetition, hence the reason pianists practice so much on just one piece.  It's also the reason why super autobiographical memorizers rehearse their lives so much and are able to recall life events easily.

As for mnemonics, the purpose of mnemonics is to compress large chunks of information down to a size that can be recalled.  The actual information is not encoded but a surrogate piece of information is.  10,000 places of pi is not 10,000 pieces of mnemonic device.  Depending on the kind of device used, it's only 100.

Offline lloyd_cdb

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 539
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #28 on: November 21, 2012, 08:06:10 PM »
I'm absolutely certain there is no such thing.  This is based both on the psychological literature, which does not support the validity of this phenomenon

I trust you've read much more literature than I have, but it took one google search to find articles that disagree with that theory.  One of the first one's that popped up is an article by one of my college professors.  From a personal perspective, this helped me support the validity of my claim.

In actuality, our memory for what just occurred is very fuzzy.  It only crystalizes with repetition, hence the reason pianists practice so much on just one piece.

Single cases are all I need to support my argument.  He plays instantly after hearing it once without repetition.



As for mnemonics, the purpose of mnemonics is to compress large chunks of information down to a size that can be recalled.  The actual information is not encoded but a surrogate piece of information is.  10,000 places of pi is not 10,000 pieces of mnemonic device.  Depending on the kind of device used, it's only 100.

I understand mnemonics, but it's practicality is limited in many situations.  Organizing the order of planets into a structure that's easier to understand due to properties of language is one thing, even if it's more digits.  Our discussion has focused on pi a lot, and my comments were probably a bit over specific in regards to that.  Mnemonics for pi is not as easy to reduce to chunks that are 100x smaller.  In a random chain of numbers, the lack of repetition and disorganization is what limits chunking.  Separating them into groups of 3 is still only reducing it minimally.  Turning it into a poem that would be 10,000 words may be just as difficult to remember unless that's, again, one of your natural talents.  This is where mnemonics become marginally useful, if useful at all.
I've been trying to give myself a healthy reminder: http://internetsarcasm.com/

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #29 on: November 22, 2012, 06:55:13 AM »
Quote
I trust you've read much more literature than I have.  From a personal perspective, this helped me support the validity of my claim.
My area of expertise is learning and memory.  A survey of the psychological literature will show that ALL claims of photographic memory are not valid; either the subject was using some kind of mnemonic or that the study had serious or questionable flaws in the design.

Quote
One of the first one's that popped up is an article by one of my college professors.
Name? Title of article?

Quote
Single cases are all I need to support my argument.  He plays instantly after hearing it once without repetition.
Large vocabulary allows for seemingly long pieces of information to be quite small since most of the patterns are already in the memory repertoire.

Quote
This is where mnemonics become marginally useful, if useful at all.
Mnemonics can be used to recall tens of thousands of random digits, such as decimal places of pi.  It's a technique ANYONE can use to recall pi to 10,000 places.  Note that it's recall, not memorization, of the numbers.  The mnemonics are there so that individual numbers do not have to be memorized.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Memory-Book-Classic-Improving/dp/0345410025/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353567022&sr=8-1&keywords=harry+lorayne

This is a book about memory techniques and shows you how to memorize random digits, among other things.  It's the best selling memory book out there.  The techniques may be old as some European memory champions use far more elaborate mnemonic techniques to memorize even larger chunks of useless information.  But, that's why they are World Memory Champions.
http://www.worldmemorychampionships.com/

Offline faulty_damper

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3929
Re: Child prodigies: nature vs nurture?
«Reply #30 on: November 22, 2012, 07:01:29 AM »
http://www.world-memory-statistics.com/discipline.php?id=num60

Current world record of most digits memorized in one hour: 2660.