Prodigies vs Late Bloomers
Like most sections of this blog I haven't updated Big Ell's Bookshelf in a very long time. I have decided to change this section a bit so I can include anything interesting I have read. Here is a link to an essay in the New Yorker by one of my favorite writers, Malcolm Gladwell of the Tipping Point and Blink fame. The piece is about the differences between prodigies and late bloomers based on research conducted by economist David Galenson.
Galenson’s idea that creativity can be divided into these types—conceptual and experimental—has a number of important implications. For example, we sometimes think of late bloomers as late starters. They don’t realize they’re good at something until they’re fifty, so of course they achieve late in life. But that’s not quite right. Cézanne was painting almost as early as Picasso was. We also sometimes think of them as artists who are discovered late; the world is just slow to appreciate their gifts. In both cases, the assumption is that the prodigy and the late bloomer are fundamentally the same, and that late blooming is simply genius under conditions of market failure. What Galenson’s argument suggests is something else—that late bloomers bloom late because they simply aren’t much good until late in their careers.