Child prodigies are made, not born, according to a new study that attributesexceptional ability at an early age to parental encouragement and exposure, rather than to genes or a natural "gift."
Not that achieving prodigy status is easy, notes John Sloboda, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Keele, in England, and the study's lead researcher. "It takes someone who is strongly motivated, self-confident, and well-taught, with good attending skills, plenty of practice,and strong commitment," Sloboda says. But given these circumstances, "the majority of intelligent young people are capable of gaining very high levels of expertise in their choose area."
Still, there are some abilities, like perfect pitch, that evironmental stimulation can't explain. Sloboda acknowledges that some people may be genetically predisposed to certain talents, and that parental encouragement and personal effort builds on this already firm genetic based. But he emphasize the potential harm of prematurely classifying children as gifted or talented: those who are excluded early on may never achieve all that they are capable of.