If I wasn’t a hypnotherapist I think I’d make a rather good talent scout. When out and about in London I see mind-blowing talent all the time. Whether it’s in the underground, on the South Bank, or in Covent Garden, I see performers who’d easily compete with the very best of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’!
In entertainment, sports, and business, talent-spotting is a huge industry. If you can spot those with the potential to become exceptional, then you have a significant jump on your competition. You won’t have to spend valuable time headhunting the whiz kid financier or spend a mind-numbing amount of money on the transfer of a brilliant player. However, spotting undeveloped talent isn’t always an easy task.
In the early 80’s, an Israeli psychologist by the name of Dov Eden appeared to have cracked the talent code. In one particularly astonishing example, he was able to determine with remarkable accuracy which soldiers in the Israeli army would become top performing recruits. How did he do this?
He was given access to the files of approximately a thousand soldiers who had completed basic training with the Israeli Army with a view to joining the Israeli Special Forces. Armed with this information, which included basic training evaluations and appraisals from their commanders, he was able to identify a group of trainees who would not only excel, but become stand-out members of the Special Forces.
Just as Dov Eden had predicted, the candidates identified as high potential performers did significantly better than their peers during the three months of training. So, had he conceived an intricate plan that utilised complex statistical data? Actually no. Professor Eden had, in fact, chosen the one thousand candidates completely at random. Then he notified the candidates and their commanding officers that they’d been identified as high-potential performers. What Eden achieved was a triumph of predictive psychology. In other words, the candidates lived up to their expectations of themselves based on what others thought of them. They rose to the occasion. And the rest was simply an example of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Another example of predictive psychology is psychologist Richard Rosenthal’s famous study of elementary school students. Just as Professor Eden had done with the recruits and their commanders, Rosenthal had informed teachers that certain pupils in their classrooms had been identified as ‘intellectual bloomers’.
The teachers were told that these children would exhibit significant intellectual growth during the school year. Again, the students were chosen randomly and simply given the designation ‘intellectual bloomers’. However, at the end of the term, these students did indeed show higher academic achievement compared to the rest of the class.
Why was this? Well the teachers, believing that they had exceptional pupils in their care, treated them differently from their other students. Studies revealed that the teachers unconsciously gave more encouragement, positive attention, and learning opportunities to their ‘gifted students’. They also sub-communicated their positive expectations for these students through non-verbal signals and cues.
So, what can we take away from these two examples? Quite simply, when people are told they’ve been identified as potentially high achievers, they incorporate this into their own believe system. In turn, their instructors, mentors, and employers feed into their self-belief, and… Voilà! …Everyone’s got talent!