Sunday, February 03, 2008

TZP and the origins of talent

I finally watched the amazing Taare Zameen Par today. Great movie. Please go and watch it if you have not watched it yet.

This post is not about the greatness of the movie, which many people have talked about already. This is also not about pointing out the faults in the movie, because I am sure people have talked about that too.

This post is to get your opinions on a question that we friends started discussing about while watching the movie. The question we discussed was:

"Talking about abstract skills such as art, are some kids just born with it? or can anyone be trained in them?"

Some PoVs:
1. Of course, abstract things like art are skills that the brain either has or does not have. You cannot "train" someone to paint.
2. The human brain is immensely malleable. Anyone can be trained to be a master painter.
3. At higher levels, abstract concepts such as painting and more "concrete" skills such as math are not much different. Thinking up of ways to turn a sphere inside out is as "arty" as painting a masterpiece. And yes, some brains might be better suited for a particular skill. However, anyone, with proper and appropriately-paced training, can become good at a skill, whether it is painting or solving partial differential equations. However, only a few can become true masters. What happens most often, especially in Indian scenarios, is that underpaid and uninterested teachers are not willing to make learning exciting. As a result, only the kids with "aptitude" excel, since the ones without it are not being trained properly.

There is more I have to say... but I shall wait for what you think about this topic. Is "talent" an inborn trait? How much of talent is inborn? [question changed to make it clearer]


  1. Yes. Talent is an inborn trait.

    This is because even with extreme training we can do anything, but an inborn talent adds the icing on the cake. I still remember my days where I was learning carnatic music and I was soo passionate about it. But still, I was never able to sing that well when compared to many more people. And this applies to many more things in my life (as I have too many interests).

    So, hardwork and training can be very very useful but 'Talent' is something which is inborn.

  2. @bat .. point taken. I should have been clearer. question modified.

  3. I first saw this on natgeo and confirmed it with wiki.

  4. Experts are made. Expertise can be developed. Check out Anders Ericsson, and stuff like "the 10-year rule" and "deliberate practice".

  5. i would say 75% of any talent is inborn. And to understand it easily.. consider singing. U can't train anyone with a horrible voice to be a good singer, but at the same time you can make a horrible voice sound good or at least sound apt.

  6. Rahul, Abi and Adarsh, thanks for your comments. The links were very informative.

  7. I agree with the contents of all the comments posted here. However, what can also be asked here is how do you define "talent"? (A research question, huh! :D) Is it just being good in sports or academia or music/arts? I'm sure there are many more realms that exist in our lives and so it is almost impossible to say that anyone is 'talentless' as such!

    For example, Andrew Carnegie famously said that he would give the maximum salary in his business empire to a person who knows how to deal with people, irrespective of his academic credentials! Apparently, interpersonal skills (a major talent for engineers!) also don't come naturally to people: I remember attending the class of a big-shot professor on campus whose teaching skills are better not talked about. So do you call such a person talented (owing to his impressive credentials) or not (since the teaching didn't come across! :P)

    I believe that I'm going into uncharted territory here, but the point remains... Everyone is born with talent for something or the other: it is just a matter of circumstances that brings them out (or not)!