Deliberate practice and performance in music, games, sports, education and professions: a meta-analysis
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Brooke N Macnamara, David Z Hambrick, Frederick L Oswald

Deliberate practice is defined as engagement in structured activities created specifically to improve performance in a particular domain. Since the 1990s researchers have been proposing that in domains such as music, sports and games, the individual differences in the amount of deliberate practice correspond with individual differences in performance.

While this view is a popular one, the researchers sought to examine whether it is supported by empirical evidence. To achieve this they conducted a meta-analysis covering all major domains in which deliberate practice had been investigated.

They found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. They conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued. This contradicts the deliberate-practice view suggested by Ericsson and his colleagues in 1993, which subsequently generated significant interest in expert performance. However, according to the findings of this meta-analysis, the Ericsson claim that individual differences in performance are largely accounted for by individual differences in the amount of deliberate practice is not supported by the available empirical evidence.

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Brooke N Macnamara, David Z Hambrick, Frederick L Oswald

Published by:
Sage Publications

Date of publication:
July 2014

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Of potential interest to professionals teaching sport or music. This meta-analysis examines the impact of deliberate practice and covers all major domains in which it has been investigated, including in education. The findings contradict beliefs proposed previously within popular-science writing.


Record ID:
R468 / 555
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