The Problem With Favoring Natural Talent Over Hard Work

What’s more important — natural talent, or hard work?

While scientists have long known that determination, effort and hard work are highly correlated with achievement, a new study finds that people may have an unconscious preference for achievement that results from innate, natural-born abilities.

The research, published in this month’s edition of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, shows that when evaluating entrepreneurs, potential investors favor “naturals” over “strivers.”

“We are willing to give up better-qualified candidates in order to hire those believed to be naturals,” Dr. Chia-Jung Tsay, a psychologist at the University College London and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “We are likely to perceive the performance attributed to naturals as better than the same performance when attributed to strivers. We are often unaware of our preference for naturalness.”

In a series of experiments, Tsay showed a group of nearly 900 U.S. investors profiles of fictional entrepreneurs that contained information about their leadership experience, management skills, IQ and the amount of money they’d already raised.

In one experiment, the profiles hinted at whether an entrepreneur’s success was due to natural talent or to hard work and determination. In another experiment, the profiles stated explicitly that the entrepreneurs were either naturals or strivers.

Researchers then asked the investors which entrepreneur they would want to back financially, and if they would sacrifice other positive attributes (such as IQ or experience) to work with either a natural or a striver.

Tsay found that the investors showed an overwhelming preference for the naturals. The strivers, on the other hand, were at a significant disadvantage.

In order to get backing from an experienced investor, the strivers needed an average of four and a half more years of leadership experience, slightly better management skills, a 28-point higher IQ —> Read More