General Question

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

Why do some people fail to pick up instinctive skills after much practice?

Asked by Questionsaboutstuff (265points) February 4th, 2014

You get people who’s accent doesn’t change after they move and others who do. You get girls who get better hand writing in school but many boys hand writing stays bad.

Why is it some people seem to not pick up these habits when other people just acquire them?

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37 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

In general, because what you call “instinctive” is actually learned.

There are very, very few truly instinctive skills. Crawling, walking, for sure. Maybe scrounging for food. But once you get past those, most everything is learned. That’s why evolution gave us parents.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

All muscle memory becomes instinctive such as when speaking and writing.

It would be a big hassle if when driving I had to think of every action like I did when learning, I’m asking when do others seem to take longer to gain these instinctive skills and other not.

I don’t mean innate.

Cruiser's avatar

Just plain laziness.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

Paying attention could pay a role, though after doing anything for a long time even if I wasn’t paying attention, I should just gain those instinctive skills.

Now this is where I can could be wrong, getting constant feedback or paying attention to constant feedback and improve off that feedback could have to do with it.

Naked_Whale_Tamer's avatar

@elbanditoroso wrote:

“In general, because what you call “instinctive” is actually learned.”

Thank you for stating what I’ve been saying for years.

When people say “I found the program instinctive”, what they really mean is that they’ve used similar programs in the past and this new program is actually based upon previous experiences.

I used “program” as an example but the concept applies to many other entities.

Great answer.

Cruiser's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff Could very well be. In grade school I had perfect cursive handwriting now my handwriting looks like I write with my toes. It is just I can type faster than I write and do so little writing anymore. Practice makes perfect.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

In school boys write as much as girls why does one find it easy to write well and the other not

Cruiser's avatar

@Questionsaboutstuff IMO it again comes down to laziness. Doing anything well requires effort and practice….people who don’t practice stuff like writing will not do it well. Simple

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

But just the way our brains work these instinctive memories like muscle memories should have nothing to do with effort.

Juels's avatar

I have to agree with @elbanditoroso and @Naked_Whale_Tamer. By definition, instinct is not learned. A baby’s natural ability to suckle would be an instinct. We learn to read, write, drive. Just because you’ve mastered a skill and are able to perform it with unconscious ease doesn’t make it instinctive.

gailcalled's avatar

Disclaimer. I am not a lazy person. In spite of having tried to make my handwriting neater, it has been a chicken scrawl since I first learned cursive in second grade. I write very well; it’s just illegible.

@Questionsaboutstuff; Are you too lazy to learn the difference between “who’s’ and “whose”?

I took violin lessons for six weeks and worked very hard. Unfortunately, my ear couldn’t hear the pitch variations. No instinct involved there. I bet that no matter how hard you practiced the violin for a very long time, you would not have any instincts that kicked in and made you Yitzah Perlman.

I taught third and fourth graders for several years; there was no bias of any kind for the girls to have neat and lovely handwriting and the boys to all write as though they were dislexic.

However, at that age, most of them found learning the French R and the U very easy. They were brave and silly and still had elastic muscles in their lips and mouth.

I can teach most English-speaking adults how to make a really good French U as in “sur” or “du.” It just takes concentration and some interest. Some people would rather spend that currency learning how to play the flute or sauté kale.

thorninmud's avatar

What you’re calling “instinctive skill” is perhaps better thought of as aesthetic discrimination. To take your example of accents, when you learn, say, French, you begin by finding the nearest phonetic equivalent for its sounds in your own language. So you build a French phrase using phonetic components of your mother tongue. That often gets close enough for comprehension. On a cognitive level, where getting meanings across is what counts, you’re speaking French, so where’s the problem?

Well, the problem is not on the cognitive level, but the aesthetic level. The aesthetic level is concerned with feel, with ineffable rightness. Speaking cognitively satisfactory French is a matter of following rules; speaking aesthetically satisfactory French requires tuning into the feel of the sound. You must accept that your English “R” is not a French “R”, your English “U” not a French “U”. They’re not interchangeable any more than just any old blue can be used to paint a periwinkle. You have to acquire entirely new phonetic tools.

Many people are aesthetically challenged. As long as their work meets the functional requirements, then it’s good.To someone with a developed aesthetic sense, the functional requirements are just the beginning. The feel must also be gotten right. But the rules won’t help you there.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Maybe the OP is saying it should be instinctive to change under certain circumstances.

bolwerk's avatar

Language acquisition is I guess instinctive. Early language acquisition is a neurophysical process, and your accent is typically pretty set after puberty. It can be changed with great difficulty. Likewise new languages can be acquired at great difficulty, and many people might not even be capable of that.

I’m not sure there is anything instinctive about handwriting. Practice, and you can get better.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’d say it’s instinctive. I have a two year old grand daughter who asks us things and tells us thing in perfectly constructed sentences…but it’s in her own language! When my daughter was two and doing that same thing, she came to me asking to do something. Had no idea what she was asking but I said, “Sure! Knock yourself out!” Whereupon she proceeded to take a sack of fire place ashes and throw them down the basement steps! Well, couldn’t get mad. I told her she could!
That’s when I learned “Always say no!”

Kardamom's avatar

I’m guessing that some people who have accents, especially French and British, would not want to change their accents, especially if they moved to the United States, because their beautiful accents make then sound unique and us American’s love those accents.

On the other hand, I worked with a lot of folks who came from the Philippines and they had all been in the U.S. for at least ten years or more, some of them for 30 years or more and they all had very thick accents. I think that was because, outside of work, they didn’t generally socialize or come into contact with American born, English speakers very much, because there is a large Filipino community in our town, and they live there and don’t speak English at home. They speak Tagalog. They all spoke English well enough to get by in an English speaking job, but there was no need for them to finesse their accents.

With regards to cursive, some people are just better at it than others. There may be a higher percentage of females, for whatever evolutionary reason, that are better at it than the guys.

Although I studied hard with mathematics all through grade school and then on into college, I have always struggled and have never been good at it. I actually hate math because it was always a miserable struggle for me. I spent hours and hours trying to get it, but I just don’t have the capacity. Other friends of mine came to it naturally and really never had to work at it to be good at it.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is true, as has been pointed out, that there is relatively little in the way of learning that is instinctive, but it is also true, as several have shown, that we are born with different innate interests and abilities. Mozart was able to commit to memory the entire score of a concert that he visited. If I spent my entire life trying to do this, I seriously doubt that I would be able to, though I would no doubt learn something about music in the process of trying.

The roles of nature vs nurture is also complicated. In some cases a gene may only be expressed in an appropriate triggering environment. Similarly, the roles of interest and ability are entangled. Are we good at things interest us or are we interested in things we do well? Probably a little of each.

In short, it can be rather difficult to figure out why or why not a person learns something. We all differ in those areas which come naturally to us.
Regarding accents, I knew a woman who grew up in Jamaica who did not have a trace of an accent. When I mentioned this to her, she said that it was only by prodigious effort that she was able to accomplish this. She said she spent a good deal of time speaking on top of a recording and trying to blend her voice with the voice on the recording. She said that when she went back home to visit family, she tended to slip back into her native accent.

rojo's avatar

@LostInParadise I can relate to that. My family moved to the US from the UK many years ago. I effectively lost my scouser accent after three years while my mother still has hers 48 years later.
We had been in the US about 7 years when I went back for a few months. All my family and the friends I made there commented on my Texan accent yet when I came back to the US, my family and friends made a big deal over my newly rediscovered English accent for several months.
In my mid 20’s I went back again and experienced the same thing all over again. This second time over I went with five friends, all native Texans, and none of them had that experience.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

Muscle memory is created by repetition so you don’t need to think to retrieve it and you shouldn’t need to think hard when doing it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

My dad was raised in Texas. After he graduated from Texas Tech, and was aspiring to become an electrical engineer (which he became, rising through the hierarchy at Boeing) Mom told me he worked hard to get rid of that Texas drawl. He succeeded. But it slipped out now an again, especially when he was mad at us!

crushingandreaming's avatar

Because they arent very smart

johnsdaulton's avatar

Just because they do not seriously practice things.

Dutchess_III's avatar

To the last two posters above, if something is “instinctive” it doesn’t need to be learned. Even a stupid baby instinctively knows how to suckle and it doesn’t need practice to learn it.

bolwerk's avatar

Some babies don’t learn to suckle human nipples if they are exposed to bottles first.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bolwerk The point is, they know how to suckle, whether it be a nipple or a bottle. Suckling is instinctive. Doesn’t need to be taught.

bolwerk's avatar

Sort of a weird adaptation, either way. They need to practice if they learn wrong.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s not a weird adaption. They’d die in a matter of days if they didn’t have that instinct.

I have never heard of a baby “learning” to suckle “wrong.” They don’t “learn” it at all. They know how to do it before they are born.

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: it is a weird adaptation in that they learn to do it incorrectly and then be unable to learn suckling from a breast. Nestle killed a lot of babies exploiting that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s not weird! It’s human nature. It’s just what the baby gets used to. If they start off on the breast, they won’t want a bottle if it’s offered. They don’t learn to suck “wrong.” They just don’t like the feel of the bottle if they’re used to the breast and vise-versa

What in the world does Neslte have to do with anything?

bolwerk's avatar

@Dutchess_III: it’s weird as in funny/unfortunate. Natural selection hasn’t killed the babies that aren’t so versatile. But Nestle famously saw the business opportunity in this phenomenon.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Sigh. It is not a “phenomenon.” A phenomenon is something that is impressive or extraordinary. A remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.

bolwerk's avatar


noun: phenomenon; plural noun: phenomena

a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, esp. one whose cause or explanation is in question.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s usually interpreted as a very unusual situation. The babies we’re talking about are not behaving in an unusual manner.

bolwerk's avatar

That’s “phenomenal,” not “phenomenon.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Phenomenal” is the adjective form of the noun “phenomena.”

“That phenomena was phenomenal!” I’m getting a phenomenal headache!

gailcalled's avatar

If we’re looking for accuracy;

“Those phenomena were phenomenal.”

See @bolwerk, three answers above this one.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You’re right. “phenomena” is plural. “Phenomenon” is singular. My bad. Still have time to edit, but I’ll let it ride.

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