Deliberate practice and performance in music, games, sports, education, and professions: a meta-analysis

Psychol Sci. 2014 Aug;25(8):1608-18. doi: 10.1177/0956797614535810. Epub 2014 Jul 1.


More than 20 years ago, researchers proposed that individual differences in performance in such domains as music, sports, and games largely reflect individual differences in amount of deliberate practice, which was defined as engagement in structured activities created specifically to improve performance in a domain. This view is a frequent topic of popular-science writing-but is it supported by empirical evidence? To answer this question, we conducted a meta-analysis covering all major domains in which deliberate practice has been investigated. We found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.

Keywords: deliberate practice; expertise; human performance; meta-analysis; open data; skill acquisition; talent development.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Educational Status
  • Employment / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Music / psychology*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Recreation / psychology
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Work / psychology