People just give up trying to improve

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Anders Ericsson — of deliberate practice fame — began his career helping to push the boundaries of working memory:

Most people can repeat back a seven-digit phone number, but not a ten-digit one. He recruited Steve Faloon, an average Carnegie Mellon University student, and they set about systematically working to get better. After about 200 hours of effort, Faloon could repeat back 82 digits, by far a world record at the time. Faloon wasn’t destined for such greatness. Rather, Ericsson’s takeaway is that performance has no inherent limit. “Instead, I’ve found that people more often just give up and stop trying to improve,” he writes. Work constantly at the edge of your ability, though, and your brain changes in a way that makes better performance possible.


  1. Grasspunk says:

    I think the biggest problem is an expectation that learning happens fast. I like this guy’s videos because he shows how many hours it takes to learn what seem like simple skills. Excellent for giving a dose of reality to your kids before they get frustrated.

  2. Harper's Notes says:

    Important to note the improvement, all such improvements, turn out to be domain specific, non-transferable to dissimilar tasks. I keep waiting for people to start calling it an improvement in the expertise of the task, but researchers in general wrote expertise out of the areas deemed worthy and interesting to investigate. The reasons for doing so are many, but the main one seems to be that research tends to be always searching for the low-hanging fruit, easy to study with current methods, and leaving the tougher more fundamental problems for later.

  3. Alrenous says:

    First thing I thought of in that video: did he do any research or get advice on good starting equipment? Like, don’t you need to grease the axles or something?

    And, later, sure enough…

  4. Lucklucky says:


    And much further it is my opinion that IQ can be much improved in child years.

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