Practice alone doesn’t make perfect, plus healing from genocide and a baby’s-eye view of failure in this week’s news

Practice is not perfect
Three chess-playing Hungarian sisters often thought to have practiced their way to grandmaster status may actually demonstrate that chess superstars rely partly on innate talent. Despite intensive chess practice from an early age, the skill ratings of two of these sisters were comparable to those of grandmasters citing only modest amounts of practice in an online survey, says education professor Robert Howard of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. A third sister became one of the top 10 grandmasters in 2005, but her skill rating still fell well below that of a chess prodigy who practiced mainly as tournaments approached, Howard reports in an upcoming Cognitive Development. —Bruce Bower

My bad, baby
Babies don’t take failure in stride. By age 16 months, infants use prior observations to assign blame for a malfunctioning toy, say MIT psychologists Hyowon Gweon and Laura Schultz. After seeing an adult press a button on a green toy to play music, infants given a green toy with a button that didn’t work usually handed the item to a parent, suggesting infants viewed their own actions as mistaken, the researchers report in the June 24 Science. If given a yellow toy with a broken button, infants usually reached for another toy nearby, implying they thought the yellow toy was busted. —Bruce Bower

Healing from genocide
Reconciliation trials held after genocidal slaughters of one group by another can reduce social tensions and aid both victims and perpetrators. But first they stir up harsh feelings. Psychologist Bernard Rimé of the University of Louvain in Belgium and his colleagues interviewed victims of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and prisoners accused of genocidal acts before and after they participated in a reconciliation trial. Anxiety symptoms spiked among victims after the trial, but they also reported less shame, the scientists report in an upcoming European Journal of Social Psychology. Feelings of shame rose among perpetrators, and negative group stereotypes onboth sides decreased after the trial. —Bruce Bower

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