Giftedness and talent

McPherson, G. E. and Williamon, A. (2006) Giftedness and talent. In: The Child as Musician: A Handbook of Musical Development. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 239-256. ISBN 978-0198530329


One of the most contentious debates in psychology, education, biology, and other related disciplines centres on the source of exceptional ability. This chapter addresses fundamental issues surrounding the nature/nurture debate in music and, in doing so, scrutinises much of the folklore that typically accompanies remarkable musical abilities. Specifically, it outlines a broad framework that distinguishes between ‘giftedness’ and ‘talent’ and discusses, in turn, six core components of this framework: giftedness, the developmental process, intrapersonal factors, environmental catalysts, chance, and talent. It then explores the scope and potential for identifying musically gifted children. Throughout, it draws on the early experiences of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, commonly evoked as the paradigmatic example of childhood accomplishment, to elucidate these components.

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