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[OK plateau & deliberate practice] when we deliberately stop improving thinking we’ve reached our limit – when it’s not

[OK plateau & deliberate practice] when we deliberately stop improving thinking we’ve reached our limit – when it’s not [OK plateau & deliberate practice] when we deliberately stop improving thinking we’ve reached our limit – when it’s not
Source: Suzann Pettersen 2015 by Mark Robinson via fineartamerica
Moonwalking with Einstein
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Moonwalking with Einstein
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Why don't they just keep getting better and better?

In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner attempted to answer this question by describing the three stages that anyone goes through when acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the "cognitive stage," you're intellectualizing the task and discovering new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second "associative stage," you're concentrating less, making fewer major errors, and generally becoming more efficient.

Finally you reach what Fitts called the "autonomous stage," when you figure that you've gotten as good as you need to get at the task and you're basically running on autopilot. During that autonomous stage, you lose conscious control over what you're doing. Most of the time that's a good thing. Your mind has one less thing to worry about. In fact, the autonomous stage seems to be one of those handy features that evolution worked out for our benefit. The less you have to focus on the repetitive tasks of everyday life, the more you can concentrate on the stuff that really matters, the stuff that you haven't seen before. And so, once we're just good enough at typing, we move it to the back of our mind's filing cabinet and stop paying it any attention. You can actually see this shift take place in fMRI scans of people learning new skills. As a task becomes automated, the parts of the brain involved in conscious reasoning become less active and other parts of the brain take over. You could call it the "OK plateau," the point at which you decide you're OK with how good you are at something, turn on autopilot, and stop improving.

We all reach OK plateaus in most things we do. We learn how to drive when we're in our teens and then once we're good enough to avoid tickets and major accidents, we get only incrementally better. My father has been playing golf for forty years, and he's still—though it will hurt him to read this —a duffer. In four decades his handicap hasn't fallen even a point. How come? He reached an OK plateau. Psychologists used to think that OK plateaus marked the upper bounds of innate ability. In his 1869 book Hereditary Genius, Sir Francis Galton argued that a person could only improve at physical and mental activities up until he reached a certain wall, which "he cannot by any education or exertion overpass." According to this view, the best we can do is simply the best we can do. But Ericsson and his fellow expert performance psychologists have found over and over again that with the right kind of concerted effort, that's rarely the case. They believe that Galton's wall often has much less to do with our innate limits than simply with what we consider an acceptable level of performance. What separates experts from the rest of us is that they tend to engage in a very directed, highly focused routine, which Ericsson has labeled "deliberate practice." Having studied the best of the best in many different fields, he has found that top achievers tend to follow the same general pattern of development. They develop strategies for consciously keeping out of the autonomous stage while they practice by doing three things: focusing on their technique, staying goal-oriented, and getting constant and immediate feedback on their performance. In other words, they force themselves to stay in the "cognitive phase."

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