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Why people reward innate talent over hard work


In almost every discipline, success comes from a combination of talent and grit. But if you listen to the most famous characters describe their life journeys, you’ll soon hear them tweeting lyric about hard graft, while bizarrely minimizing the role of their innate abilities.

Thomas Edison may be the most quoted, with his claim that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent sweat,” but many other variations exist. Just think of Octavia Butler Advice for new writers. “Forget talent. If you have it, it’s fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more reliable than inspiration, continuous learning is more reliable than talent.” Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo also emphasized the blood, sweat and tears that went into his training. When he said “talent without work is nothing” He was asked about the secrets of his success on the field.

Such narratives may be useful for famous personalities who like to appear humble and powerful. But recent psychological research shows that overemphasizing the importance of hard work can backfire in many professional situations — thanks to a phenomenon known as the “normal bias.” These studies show that people have more respect for those who have innate talent than for those who have had to fight for their success.

It is believed that the natural bias operates without conscious awareness, and the consequences can be very unfair. In recruitment, for example, interviewers might prefer a less qualified candidate if they believed their accomplishments stemmed from natural talent — compared to a more accomplished candidate who showed grit and determination.

Fortunately, the scientists behind this research have some advice on ways we can avoid being “punished” for our hard work.

Pure genius

In consumer psychology, the term “normal bias” is often used to describe our preference Natural products over synthetic products. Author Malcolm Gladwell appears to have been the first to apply the concept to human capabilities, during Power point to the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2002. “On some fundamental level, we believe that the closer something is to its original state, the less altered or adulterated it is, the more desirable it is,” he declared. With this reasoning, he suggested that a person who had to work hard to achieve success had fundamentally gone against his “nature”, and his accomplishments would not be held in high esteem.

Gladwell’s argument was based largely on observation rather than empirical evidence, but Xia Jong Tsai, associate professor at University College London of Management, has put the idea to the test in a series of studies.

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