Intelligence matters, not simply years of diligent practice, at the higher elevations of thinking

Much has been made about expertise being the payoff of 10,000+ hours of disciplined, thoughtful practice (See my post of June 12, 2005: Herbert Simon’s 10-year rule on expertise; July 15, 2005: how to increase “deep smarts.”; Nov. 6, 2006: effortful study over time, plus motivation; Jan. 18, 2007: concentrated work and further effort; March 4, 2008: compensation may reflect immersion over years; and April 29, 2010: hard, deliberate practice matters more than innate talent.

An article in the NY Times, Nov. 20, 2011 at SR12, concurs that immersion and focused learning over time goes a long way. Practice, done right, helps to make perfect. But the writer makes two further points. Based on extensive research, “’working memory capacity,’ a core component of intellectual ability, predicts success in a wide variety of complex activities.” You test working memory by having someone try to remember information (like a list of random digits) while performing another task.

Second, the author says that scores on the SAT correlate so highly with IQ that some regard it as a thinly disguised intelligence test, which correlates to working memory capacity. Possibly LSAT scores translate the predict the same way and as well.

Might law departments start to ask for SAT/LSAT scores and working memory results when they recruit? Experience counts, heavily, but in a rapidly changing world, a rapid-fire mind may count more heavily.

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