Standard Measures of Talent

How Good Are They Really?

In 2011, close to 25 million people in the United Kingdom and United States alone tuned in to watch the X-Factor each week, a TV music competition in which aspiring singers compete for a recording contract. The winner is chosen by a celebrity panel and the audience at home, who phone in to vote for contestants. It is a franchise business, with versions screened in over forty countries: from El Factor X in Colombia to XSeer Al Najah, the pan-Arab version. Talent spotting has become entertainment for the masses, a casual evening activity, and we all think we can do it.

Dictionaries define X factor as a special quality or talent that is essential for success but difficult to describe. Yet ...

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