The Talent Narrative: A Reductive Heuristic
The way people perceive their personal capacity for growth has profound implications (Dweck, 1999). People who believe that their abilities are largely constrained by genetic factors tend to perform worse than those who believe that ability is perpetually malleable. Those who believe most strongly in genetic constraints argue that there are significant differences in talent between individuals, and that these differences play a major role in a person’s potential. In this paper, I explore what is commonly meant by the term “talent”, and show that the assumptions that underlie the “talent narrative” are reductive heuristics. I conclude the paper by offering a new perspective for thinking about how individual differences and potential work. This new perspective is consistent with research that shows that starting points do not constrain ending points. Understanding the reductive logic that has led to the talent narrative may help individuals to overcome limiting self-theories.