First off, I your subheadings directly reference the Beatles and the Smiths and contain an obscure reference to Better than Ezra. I can't tell you how happy this makes me!! (though if this inspires me to spend the day listening to the Smiths, I suspect some of my friends will worry that I'm depressed)

One of my closest friends says that 'talented' is just a nicer way to say 'obsessive compulsive'. In her view, talented designers simply notice things that normal people simply can't. Talented musicians hear things others can't. She believes that people develop these hyper senses because of a compulsion towards the subject.

I don't completely agree with her (though developing expertise sounds an awful lot like something the DSM-IV should cover). However, I think she is on the right path - talent in a field has a whole lot to do with learned processes and practice.

For example, here's an interesting article on how trained artists look at an image (compared to people who are not trained):

http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2007/03/15/artists-look-different/

In case you don't want to read that article, here is a relevant quote:

"Vogt and Magnussen argue that it comes down to training: artists have learned to identify the real details of a picture, not just the ones that are immediately most salient to the perceptual system, which is naturally disposed to focusing on objects and faces."

I think that I'll let Better than Ezra conclude this for me. "She's not crazy...just a little misunderstood."

Thanks for writing this article!!