Can you teach an ‘old dog’ new tricks?

We are often told that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. So it’s easy to forget that many famous artists, writers and inventors found a second bloom of creativity later in life. Leonardo da Vinci, for instance, only began his ground-breaking studies of the human anatomy in his mid-50s; Picasso abandoned canvas for ceramic artwork when he was late 60s, and the Booker Prize-winning novelist Penelope Fitzgerald only published her first novel at the age of 62.

I’ve just published an article for BBC Future examining the “old dogs, new tricks” myth. According to the latest research, confidence may be one of the biggest barriers. We hear so much about the cognitive decline that comes with age, that some people may simply lose faith in their brain’s capacity for learning, and instead begin to lean on “cognitive crutches” in place of their memory. When driving, for instane, they may rely on GPS rather than learning the route. When cooking, they may always use a recipe book. Eventually, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the plus side, you can retrieve that lost fertility by deliberately stretching your mind.

You can read the full piece here: I’d love to hear your thoughts on the research and your own experiences.

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