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Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Wednesday, 11 May 2011 09:29 UK

Is talent a 'destructive myth'?


Is performance ever really related to talent? Is your ability set in stone by your genes and you are born with talents you can never improve on?

Not according to Times columnist Matthew Syed, whose book, Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice, attempts to deflate the "destructive myth" of fixed talent.

Young people who struggle at school are often tempted, he thinks, to make the inference that they "just lack the brain for school". This becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, which leads children to try less hard and perform less well.

"If we can get young people to obliterate the myth of talent, it increases self-efficacy and it dramatically boosts performance," he told John Humphrys.

"The key point coming out of neuroscience is that the brain is so adaptable to the demands we place upon it."

But Professor Peter Saunders of the think tank Civitas, author of Social Mobility Myths, says Syed is "underplaying the importance of ability and talent".

"It's wrong to set up genetics against environment... it's actually a combination of both."

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