Gary Marcus on the widespread view called the “critical-period effect”:

The critical-period effect is the idea that you can’t do certain things — like learn a language, or learn an instrument — unless you start early in life. It’s a discouraging thought for anyone past adolescence. But, recently, the evidence for this idea had started to unwind.

He goes to detail some of the new evidence against that idea and his own adventures in learning guitar at the age of forty.

I’ve always believed — not just hoped — that you can continue learning new things when you’re an adult. Not just information and facts, but real skills — behaviors that are normally envied as talents.

I know this is true because I’ve been doing it my whole adult life. And I plan on learning new things until I run out of air to breathe. I’m not saying it’s easy when you’re my age. But don’t tell me it’s impossible.

Via Andrew Sullivan.