Hard Work Outdoes Talent if Talent Doesn't Work Hard
Review of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance
Karl Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich and Robert R. Hoffman (Eds.)
New York: Cambridge University Press. June 26, 2006. 918 pp. BF431.C26835 2006
ISBN-13: 9780521840972 | ISBN-10: 052184097X hardback format $130.00 USD
ISBN-13: 9780521600811 | ISBN-10: 0521600812 paperback format $65.00 USD
ISBN-13: 9780511222894 Adobe eBook reader format $104.00 USD
Reviewed by Clifford Morris, July of 2007.
"Before practice, opportunity, and luck can combine to create expertise, the would-be expert needs to demythologize the achievement of top-level performance, because the notion that genius is born, not made, is deeply ingrained. It's perhaps most perfectly exemplified in the person of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is typically presented as a child prodigy with exceptional innate musical genius. Nobody questions that Mozart's achievements were extraordinary compared with those of his contemporaries. What's often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert -- he became one." (Ericsson, Prietula & Cokely, 2007, p. 121, emphasis are mine alone and not those of the authors).
I have divided this review into sections. After commenting briefly about the editors, I highlight the handbook's structure. Then, I comment on its themes, followed by a list of its strengths and suitable audiences. Next, I draw attention to some weaknesses, including a few editing errors. Finally, after a brief summary, I close out my remarks with a list of references. I will now discuss, in turn, each of these seven sections.
The four editors of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, a gigantic volume that was published in June of 2006, bring together a stellar group of scientific researchers who provide excellent overviews of the historical development of research on a wide range of topics related to expertise, update the literature providing state-of-the-art insights, identify and clarify key unresolved issues in the field, and offer a wealth of ideas for future research. Karl Anders Ericsson is the editor-in-chief of the handbook; his ongoing research endeavors to prove false the conventional wisdom and everyday theory that the top achievers among us possess extraordinary talent or aptitudes that allow them to outpace their less fortunate counterparts. Currently, Ericsson -- a k a the torchbearer in the Expert Performance Movement -- studies the cognitive structure of expert performance in domains such as athletics, musicians, and novelists. He is especially interested in how expert performers attain their superior performance by acquiring complex cognitive mechanisms and physiological adaptations through extended deliberate practice. Neil Charness's research involves age and human factors and expert performance. His research on expertise focuses on how people develop and preserve high-level performance across the life span. Paul Feltovich has conducted research and published on topics such as expert-novice differences in complex cognitive skills, conceptual understanding and misunderstanding for complex knowledge, and novel means of instruction in complex and ill-structured knowledge domains. Robert Hoffman's research has garnered him a designation as one of the pioneers of expertise studies. He has been recognized on an international level in at least five disciplines -- remote sensing, meteorology, experimental psychology, human factors, and artificial intelligence. In short, the breadth and profound depth of their coverage of expertise in this volume is truly excellent.
Structure of the Handbook
This comprehensive text is an essential reference for anyone interested in the topic of expert performance and should be accessible to the wide audience from researchers to undergraduates that the editors intended. The explosive growth of knowledge in expertise development makes summarizing current knowledge a phenomenal task, and the editors and chapter authors have done a very good job at it. Many recent, relevant research papers are cited and described in appropriate length and detail in this state-of-the-art knowledge about expertise. The more than 100 leading scientists who contributed to the handbook hail from a variety of disciplines and settings that vary from pure academics and cognitive science researchers to consultants and other types of practitioners (cf. pp. xiii-xv). As such, this handbook is intended to cater to a wide audience of researchers, teachers, and practitioners. In the words of Clark Gylmour, of Carnegie Mellon University, the overarching purpose of the handbook is to bring "together reviews by distinguished psychologists and computer scientists of the methods and results of studies of expertise. Besides a guide to the literature, the Handbook provides focused essays on experimental, observational, and analytical techniques for the study of expertise in a variety of domains. Policy makers and researchers alike will find this volume useful for years to come" (handbook's back cover).
Simply stated for here, the chapter authors and editors report to its readers to forget the notion that genius, talent or any other innate qualities create the greats which we call geniuses. They challenge us to rethink talent as simply being gifted. From chess to ballet to surgery, they argue that expert performers tend to be made not born. Not to say everyone has equal potential but they claim that the evidence is clear -- exceptional performance is typically the result of years (and years) of hard work and dedication. Furthermore, most experts require 10 years on average to achieve excellence in their fields. Overnight sensations are nothing of the sort. To cite from a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, "There are no shortcuts." (Ericsson, Prietula & Cokely, 2007, p. 116). They are most likely focused individuals who spent at least 10 years honing their talents and skills.
Throughout numerous scientific studies, chapter authors document current research studies that try to suggest that talent is not some kind of innate quality, bestowed on us by genetics and birth alone -- that such genius is something that can also be cultivated in just about anyone, given first-class instruction and supportive mentoring and loads (and loads) of hard work. Elite performers, artists, scientists, musicians and athletes generally have to work a lot harder, obsessively in fact, to gain this kind of mastery. Instead, as the inventor Thomas Edison was once observed to state, genius is 99 per cent perspiration -- or, to be truer to the data, perhaps 1 per cent inspiration, 29 per cent good instruction and encouragement, and 70 per cent perspiration. Examine closely even the most extreme examples -- Mozart, Newton, Einstein, Stravinsky -- and you find more hard-won mastery than gift. Recent writers (Coyle, 2007; Dobbs, 2006; Dubner & Levitt, 2006;; Gramza & Limjoco, 2007; Martin, 2007; Ross, 2006; but see Gardner, 1995, and Theiler, 2003, for opposing viewpoints) also argue that geniuses can be made; they are not always born.
Editors Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich and Hoffman have assembled, under one cover, leading researchers of 15 major domains of expertise. For 918 pages, seven divisions, 42 well-written, scholarly and introspective chapters, and I don't know how many referenced research studies, the writers summarize the current knowledge on the structure and acquisition of expert skill and knowledge. The handbook is a mighty tome, providing readers with a wealth of material from which to answer one or more of the following seven (7) questions: (1) What is expertise and how can it be measured? (2) Is talent something which we are born with, or can deliberate practice truly make people perfect? (3) How does expert performance change developmentally across the course of one's life span, across cultures, and across the course of history? (4) How do novices differ from experts and how can such differences be assessed? (5) Where does greatness come from? (6) How can we design interventions that increase the likelihood of the development of expertise? and (7) What generates successful people spontaneously to do things differently from those who stagnate?
To respond to those key questions, the authors respond by stating that they have different practice histories and that they are quite innovative in the way they do things. As an example, Ericsson often uses the duties of medical diagnosticians to illustrate his point. They might see a patient once or twice, make an assessment in an effort to solve a particularly difficult case, and then they usually moves on. They may never see the patient again. Ericsson states that he recently interviewed a highly successful diagnostician who worked very differently, spending considerable personal time checking up on his patients, taking extensive notes on what their thinking at the time of diagnosis, and checking back to see how accurate s/he is. This extra step he created gave him a significant advantage when compared to his peers. It allowed him to better understand how and when the patient was improving. In general, elite performers utilize some technique that typically isn't well known or widely practiced. Perhaps Feltovich, Prietula and Ericsson, the authors of Chapter 4 (Studies of Expertise from Psychological Perspectives) best sum up deliberate practice when they say that "to improve performance it is necessary to seek out practice activities that allow individuals to work on improving specific aspects, with the help of a teacher and in a protected environment, with opportunities for reflection, exploration of alternatives, and problem solving, as well as repetition with informative feedback" (p. 60).
Here is a succinct overview of the handbook's sections and its chapters.
In Part I (Introduction and Perspective), section editor Karl Anders Ericsson introduces the reader to a brief accounts of general perspectives on expertise. In Chapter 1 (An Introduction to The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance: Its Development, Organization, and Content), author Ericsson clearly outlines the overall order of the Handbook by presenting the reader with a clear, concise, yet comprehensive overview of the subject matter, progress and establishment of expertise, in particular, how expert performance has been interpreted since the beginning of western civilization" (p. 4) until the present. The next two chapters were written by two of the pioneers of the study of cognitive skills and expertise, namely, Michelene Chi and Earl Hunt. In Chapter 2 (Two Approaches to the Study of Experts' Characteristics), Chi describes two approaches to the study of expertise. And in Chapter 3 (Expertise, Talent and Social Encouragement), Hunt gives his general perspective on the principal factors related to expertise.
Part II (Overview of Approaches to the Study of Expertise -- Brief Historical Accounts of Theories and Methods) contains four chapters that review the historical development of the study of expertise in the following four major disciplines: psychology, education, computer science and sociology. In Chapter 4 ( Studies of Expertise from Psychological Perspectives ), three pioneers in the psychological study of expertise, Paul J. Feltovich, Michael J. Prietula and K. Anders Ericsson, describe the development of the study of expertise in psychology. In Chapter 5 (Overview of Approaches to the Study of Expertise: Brief Historical Accounts of Theories and Methods), chapter authors Ray Amirault and Robert Branson, one of the pioneers in the development of industrial design, describe the role of expertise in the historical development of educational methods and theories. In Chapter 6 (Expert systems: A perspective from Computer Science), three of the pioneers in the development of expert systems, Bruce Buchanan, Randall Davis and Edward Feigenbaum, illustrate the role of expertise in shaping contemporary approaches in computer science and artificial intelligences. Finally, in Chapter 7 (Professionalization, Scientific Expertise, and Elitism -- A Sociological Perspective), Julia Evetts, Harald Mieg and Ulrike Felt provide a description of the relevant approaches to the study of expertise from a sociological stance.The next two sections of the Handbook review the core methods for studying the structure (Part III: Methods for Studying the Structure of Expertise by Robert Hoffman, Section Editor) and acquisition (Part IV: Methods for Studying the Acquisition and Maintenance of Expertise by section editor Neil Charness) of expertise and expert performance. All of the eleven chapters in these two sections have been written by pioneering researchers who have developed these methods and approaches for use in research on expertise and expert performance. Each chapter consists of historical background, a detailed description of the recommended methodology with examples, and a general review of the types of empirical evidence that has been collected. In Chapter 8 ( Observation of Work Practices in Natural Settings), William Clancey gives an overview of the ethnographic observational methods for studying the behavior of experts. In Chapter 9 (Methods for Studying the Structure of Expertise: Psychometric Approaches), Philip Ackerman and Margaret Beier review the use of psychometric methods for studying expertise. In Chapter 10 (Laboratory Methods for Assessing Experts' and Novices' Knowledge), Michelene Chi describes how laboratory methods have been used to assess the structure of knowledge. In Chapter 11 (Task Analysis), Jan Schraagen describes how tasks presented to skilled and less-skilled individuals can be analyzed and how a task analysis can guide data analysis and theory construction. In Chapter 12 (Eliciting and Representing the Knowledge of Experts), Robert Hoffman and Gavan Lintern review methods for how knowledge of experts can be elicited and represented by interviews, Concept Maps and abstraction-decomposition diagrams. In Chapter 13 (Protocol Analysis and Expert Thought: Concurrent Verbalizations of Thinking during Experts' Performance on Representative Tasks), Anders Ericsson describes how the elicitation of "think aloud" protocols can allow investigators to trace the thought processes of experts while they perform representative tasks from their domain. Finally, in Chapter 14 (Simulation for Performance and Training), Paul Ward, Mark Williams, and Peter Hancock review how simulated environments can both be used to measure experts' representative performance as well as be used for training.
Section editor Neil Charness uses Part IV (Methods for Studying the Acquisition and Maintenance of Expertise) to examine methods for studying how skill, expertise, and expert performance develop and are acquired through practice. In Chapter 15 (Laboratory Studies of Training, Skill Acquisition, and Retention of Performance), Robert Proctor and Kim-Phuon Vu describe how laboratory methods for the study of skilled performance can inform research on expertise and expert performance. In Chapter 16 (Retrospective Interviews in the Study of Expertise and Expert Performance), Lauren Sosniak discusses how she and her colleagues used retrospective interviews to describe the development of expertise in the classic studies led by Bemjamin Bloom (1985), along with some recent extensions of that work. In Chapter 17 (Time budgets, Diaries and Analyses of Concurrent Practice Activities), Janice M. Deakin, Jean Cote and Andrew S. Harvey use diaries and describe different methods to study how expert performers spend their time and how experts allocate their practice time. In the final chapter (Historiometric Methods) of this section, Dean Keith Simonton reviews the methods of historiometrics and how data about the development of eminent performers can be collected any analyzed.
The fifteen (15) chapters of Part V (Domains of Expertise) symbolize the nucleus of the Handbook. Here, the reader is exposed to reviews of numerous research studies on the current knowledge about expertise and expert performance in particular domains. Every chapter contain a brief historic background followed by a review and future directions. Section editor Robert Hoffman has divided this core part of the Handbook into three more-concentrated subsections. The first subsection of Part V (Professional Domains) consists of seven (7) chapters that alert the reader to different categories of professional expertise. In Chapter 19 (Expertise in Medicine and Surgery), chapter authors Geoff Norman, Kevin Eva, Lee Brooks and Stan Hamstra comment on different types of professional expertise, specifically medicine. In Chapter 20 (Expertise and Transportation), Francis Durso and Andrew Dattel comment on expertise in transportation, such as driving, flying and airplane control. In Chapter 21 (Expertise in Software Design), Sabine Sonnentag, Cornelia Niessen, and Judith Volmer discuss expertise in software design.
In Chapter 22 (Professional Writing Expertise), Ronald Kellogg claims that professional writers work in many different ways but all these diverse habits have the following three common features: they "(1) focus attention inward by eliminating distractions, (2) may alter consciousness to facilitate entry in a flow state, and (3) help regulate the writer's emotional state to keep at the task." (pp. 395-396). Of personal interest was the author's link of expert writers to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's (1990a, 1990b, 1996) notion of Flow, a Zen-like state of total oneness with the activity at hand, whereby one is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Kellogg feels that writers, amongst other expert performers, perform best while within this state. However, professional writers sometimes are blocked in their writing which can devastate a career. The solution is "[s]elf-regulation through daily writing, brief work sessions, realistic deadlines, and maintaining low emotional arousal" whereas "[b]inge writing - hypomanic, euphoric, marathon sessions to meet unrealistic deadlines - is generally counterproductive" (p. 396).
The next two chapters underscore the importance of diverse aspects of decision making by experts. In Chapter 23 (Professional Judgments and "Naturalistic Decision Making"), Karol Ross, Jennifer Shafer, and Gary Klein comment on judgments in dynamic situations. In Chapter 24 (Decision-Making Expertise), Frank Yates and Michael Tschirhart discuss the decision-making process of experts. And finally, in Chapter 25 (The Making of a Dream Team: When Expert Teams Do Best), five authors (Eduardo Salas, Michael Rosen, Shawn Burke, Gerald Goodwin and Stephen Fiore) discuss "what has been learned about expert team performance in the past 20 years" (p. 446). Specifically, they presents the reader with Table 25.1 (p. 447), a snapshot of nine traits of expert teams, or to quote the authors directly, "about what expert teams do best" (p. 447).
Here is my summary of their list of how expert teams share a clear and common purpose.
The second subsection of Part V (Arts, Sports and Motor Skills) consists of four (4) chapters. Andreas Lehmann and Hans Gruber, the authors of Chapter 26 (Music), examine expert musical performance by focusing in on the role of practice. In particular, they present the reader with three vital commonalities regarding phases of musical development: current research approaches to individual differences, increasing performance via deliberate practice, and how musical expertise is developed. In Chapter 27 (Expert Performance in Sport: A Cognitive Perspective), Nicola Hodges, Janet Starkes and Clare MacMahon provide the reader with "an overview of the major approaches in sport expertise research" (p. 482).
- Expert team members have a clear, valued and shared vision.
- They share mental models: Their members anticipate each other and communicate without the need for overt communication.
- They are adaptive, self correcting and their members compensate for each other. They reallocate functions.
- They have clear roles and responsibilities and understand how such roles fit together.
- They engage in a cycle or discipline of "prebrief --> performance -->debrief", always providing regular feedback to each other. They establish and revise team goals and can differentiate between high and low priorities. They have mechanisms for anticipating and reviewing issues and problems of members and they periodically review and diagnose team effectiveness and team vitality.
- They have strong team leadership led by those with good guidance and just not just technical aptitude. They have team members who believe the leader cares about them. They provide situation updates, foster teamwork, coordination and cooperation. They self-correct first.
- They develop a strong sense of "collective", trust, teamness and confidence. They manage conflict well. Members confront each other effectively. They trust each others intentions.
- They optimize performance outcomes while making fewer errors. They communicate often, ensuring members have the information to be able to contribute. They make better decisions and have a greater sense of mission success.
- They cooperate and coordinate and identify team task work requirements. They ensure, through staffing and development, that the team possesses the right mix of competencies. They consciously integrate new members and they distribute and assign work thoughtfully. And finally, they examine and adjust the physical workspace to optimize communication and coordination.
Chapter authors Helga Noice and Tony Noice make use of Chapter 28 (Artistic Performance: Acting, Ballet, and Contemporary Dance) to summarize recent research into the mental processes that direct professional actors, modern dance and ballet dancers. Throughout one of the book's shorter chapters, they discuss the core components of acting expertise, including a number of studies employing various paradigms that have provided converging evidence that actors regard their jobs as doing "for real" whatever the play script calls upon the character to do (e.g. threatening someone, flattering someone, ridiculing someone, etc.). Or to cite the authors directly, the focal point of professional acting is "to lure audiences into accepting the portrayals as being true to life ... to make each performance uniquely real" (p. 490). The role acquisition process appears to take place in two distinct stages. First, the actors extract from the script the underlying intentions of the characters, a procedure that often calls for extensive analysis, because the intentions in well-written plays are rarely explicit or obvious. The deep processing involved calls upon such learning factors as perspective taking, problem solving, elaboration, causal attribution, distinctiveness, and over-learning. Following the analytical phase, actors rehearse and perform their roles by using an approach the authors call "active experiencing" which involves activation of those cognitive-emotive-motor processes inherent in all genuine human transactions. This article also reviews studies that specifically examined the nature of actors' on-stage emotions, the contributions of actors' physical movements to performance, and certain aspects of professional acting expertise that may lead the way to increased understanding of human cognition. And finally, in Chapter 29 (Perceptual-Motor Expertise), David Rosenbaum, Jason Augustyn, Rajal Cohen and Steven Jax review research on perceptual-motor skills.
The third and final subsection of Part V (Games and Other Types of Expertise) consists of four (4) chapters. In Chapter 30 (Expertise in Chess), authors Fernand Gobet and Neil Charness describes the pioneering and influential work on expertise in the game of chess. In Chapter 31 (Exceptional Memory), John Wilding and Elizabeth Valentine reviews the available research studies on exceptional memory, in particular for information that most people have difficulty remembering, such as numbers, names and faces. In Chapter 32 (Mathematical Expertise), Brian Butterworth reviews research studies on mathematical expertise. And finally, in Chapter 33 (Expertise in History), Jim Voss and Jennifer Wiley review the research on expertise in history.
Part VI (Generalizable Mechanisms Mediating Expertise and General Issues) comprise the Handbook's final 316 pages. Here, the four editors invited some of the world's leading researchers on general theoretical issues that cut across different domains of expertise to review the current state of knowledge. In Chapter 34 (A Merging Theory of Expertise and Intelligence), John Horn and Hiromi Masunaga discuss the relation between general intelligence and expertise. In Chapter 35 (Tacit knowledge, Practical Intelligence and Expertise), Anna Cianciolo, Cynthia Matthew, Robert Sternberg and Richard Wagner review the relation between expertise and central concepts such as practical intelligence and tacit knowledge. In Chapter 36 (Expertise and Situation Awareness), Mica Endsley reviews evidence for situational awareness, namely experts' superior ability to perceive and monitor critical aspects of situations during performance.
The subsequent three chapters focus on aspects of learning. In Chapter 37 (Brain Changes in the Development of Expertise: Neuroanatomical and Neurophysiological Evidence about Skill-Based Adaptations), Nicole Hill and Walter Schneider review the neurological evidence on physiological adaptations resulting from the acquisition of expertise. In Chapter 38 (The Influence of Experience and Deliberate Practice on the Development of Superior Expert Performance), Anders Ericsson reviews the evidence for the key role of deliberate practice in causing physiological adaptations and the acquisition of mechanisms that mediate expert performance. And in Chapter 39 (Development and Adaptation of Expertise: The Role of Self-Regulatory Processes and Beliefs), Barry Zimmerman describes the importance of self-regulated learning in the development of expertise.
The final three chapters of the Handbook review general issues in expertise. In Chapter 40 (Aging and Expertise), Ralf Th. Krampe and Neil Charness review the effects of aging on expert performance and how it might be counteracted. They comment that as we age, our cognitive and other functions decline, and like everyone else, experts' general cognitive capacities also decline. But, miraculously, experts show little if any decline in their efficiency at skill-related tasks. But to maintain their skills, older experts have to keep practicing. In Chapter 41 (Social and Sociological Factors in the Development of Expertise), Harald Mieg reviews the importance of social factors in the development of expertise. And finally, in Chapter 42 (Modes of Expertise in Creative Thinking: Evidence from Case Studies), Robert Weisberg discusses the relation between expertise and creativity.
The following eight themes (making a genius, the ten-year rule, deliberate practice, doing what you like doing, experience is essential, nurture dominates nature, talent is highly overrated, and what is it that makes us great?) emerged repeatedly throughout the handbook.
Making a genius
The conventional understanding of genius goes something like this: We are all born either smart or we are not. Furthermore, those who are born this way display it early and deserve special treatment to ensure they reach their full potential. This portrait of smarts as a gift from mother nature is so entrenched within all of us that it has come to define the usual way we make use of the state-funded public school system (as we have come to know schooling in the West) to educate our youth. Despite the ongoing efforts of educational reformers, there is still an overwhelming tendency to give those students with the highest intelligence quotient (IQ) the best opportunities because these are the ones who (supposedly) will go on to be entrepreneurs, political leaders and captains of business and industry, and thus contribute most to the development of their communities or countries. Or so the mainstream thinking goes. Trouble is, such thinking is way off beam -- profoundly so, if we are to believe a growing body of evidence from psychology and the cognitive sciences, especially, as espoused inThe Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance.
To summarize this first theme, the traditional understanding of giftedness, high intelligence, genius or brilliance is that this trait is something that you are born with. And those that have it deserve special treatment. This conventional viewpoint is so entrenched within all of us that it has come to define the way we teach our youth. The brightest pupils in schools are given the best opportunities because they are seen as the future captains of industry, political leaders etc. Evidence from cognitive science and psychology now demonstrates that this is incorrect. Recent research studies, as demonstrated within the 42 chapters of this handbook, shows that brilliance in any discipline is due only in a very small part to innate ability. Mostly, genius comes through inspirational instruction, a supportive environment and sheer demanding work. Research shows that brilliant youngsters do not necessarily make brilliant adults. Those that do become brilliant adults almost always do so through sheer hard work.
The ten-year rule
Various chapter authors commented on an appealing finding, dubbed the ten-year rule. It seems that one has to put in at least a decade of focused work to master something and bring greatness within reach. This ten-year rule (or 10,000 hours) represents a very rough estimate; most researchers regard it as a minimum, not an average time period. In many fields (music, literature) elite performers need 20 or 30 years' experience before hitting their zenith. This applies to Mozart and the Beatles as well as to writers, inventors and athletes. This shows starkly in a study of 120 elite athletes, performers, artists, biochemists and mathematicians led by the then University of Chicago psychologist Benjamin Bloom, a giant of the field who died in 1999. Every single individual in the Bloom (1985) study took at least a decade of hard study or practice to achieve international recognition.
All this scholarly research is simply evidence for what great performers have been showing us for years. To take a handful of examples: Winston Churchill, one of the 20th century's greatest orators, practiced his speeches compulsively. Vladimir Horowitz supposedly said, "If I don't practice for a day, I know it. If I don't practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don't practice for three days, the world knows it". Olympic swimmers trained for an average of 15 years before making the team; the best concert pianists took 15 years to earn international recognition. Top researchers, sculptors and mathematicians put in similar amounts of time. The same even goes for those few who seem born with supreme talent. Mozart was playing the violin at three years of age and received expert, focused instruction from the start. He was precocious, writing symphonies at age seven, but he didn't produce the work that made him a giant until his teens.
Professional golfer Tiger Woods is a current textbook example of what the research literature confirms. Woods seems magical on the golf course but he was swinging a golf club before he could walk, received great instruction and practiced constantly from boyhood and, to this day, outworks all of his rivals. Because his father introduced him to golf at an extremely early age -- 18 months -- and encouraged him to practice intensively, Woods had racked up at least 15 years of practice by the time he became the youngest-ever winner of the United States Amateur Championship, at age 18. Also in line with current research findings, he has never stopped trying to improve, devoting several hours a day to conditioning and practice, even remaking his swing twice because that is what it took him to get even better. His genius has been laboriously constructed. However, doing something for years -- in other words, having countless hours of experience -- is not enough to become an expert. What is required is deliberate practice, namely, concentrated effort at improvement. An amateur musician, for example, may have countless hours of experience playing through pieces, but a high-level professional will spend untold hours practicing ever-more-difficult pieces, striving to master them.
Elite performers in any discipline are those who devote the most hours to what Ericsson calls 'deliberate practice'. Simply hitting buckets of golf balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers do not get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day -- that is deliberate practice. Many great athletes are legendary for the brutal discipline of their practice routines. For example, the former basketball star Michael Jordan practiced intensely beyond the already punishing team practices. Had Jordan possessed some mammoth natural gift specifically for basketball, it seems unlikely that he would have been cut from his high school team. And finally, in football, all-time-great receiver Jerry Rice -- passed up by 15 teams because they considered him too slow. He practiced so hard that other players would get sick trying to keep up.
This special type of cerebral process is essentially an effortful activity designed to improve individual target performance. That is, it is activity that is explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition. By deliberate practice, I feel that Ericsson implies meaningful practice -- focusing on improving areas of weakness, using diverse techniques to learn deeper and concentrating intently on the acquisition of original skills and knowledge, among numerous other things.
More deliberate practice equals better performance. Tons of such practice equals a great performance. An example of deliberate practice in schoolwork would be not to have a pupil study an entire unit for a test, but assessing the student's weakest areas in that unit and focusing on studying those ones more intensely. Correspondingly, in music, it deliberate practice can mean focusing in on a single area of fault in a piece instead of playing a whole song through several times for practice. In his assessment of classical pianists, Ericsson found that those who performed at expert levels had invested more than 10,000 hours in solitary practice by their 20th birthdays -- as much as five times more than their less successful, piano-playing peers. Evidence crosses a remarkable range of fields. In a study of 20-year-old violinists by Ericsson and his colleagues, the best group (judged by conservatory teachers) averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours, and the next, 5,000. The story in insurance sales, surgery and virtually every sport is the same.
Doing what you like doing
Have you ever considered looking for a better occupation or a different career path? First, find something you love and go for it! If you do not love what you do, you are unlikely to put out enough effort to get very good. And if you do love your work, you will be be surprised at how talented you can become. Most of us do not like to do things we think that we are not good at. So we often give up, telling ourselves that we do not possess the talent for mathematics or bicycling or violin playing. But what we really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make us better. Permit me to be personal here. Over many years as a teacher, my students have often asked me for career advice. (1) What is my right path? (2) Should I start something now or wait? (3) And if I do wait, what is the killer job to train me to be a great entrepreneur? My answer has usually been: That it depends on many things, but mostly on what you love doing. For example, I like teaching. I started teaching back in the 1960s and I have never looked back. In addition to numerous things, I did not realize at the time that I was learning a most important lesson: I was doing what I truly enjoyed.
Experience is essential
All of the authors comment that it not an easy task to become an expert but it can be done with intentional, premeditated planned practice over many years. In his various interviews, Ericsson cites the following practical example. Just because we have been walking for 55 years doesn't mean we're getting better at it. It's very hard for older engineers, for example, to stay competitive with younger engineers who have been trained with newer and improved methods. Those who are successful have to put in considerable extra time to learn about these recent methods.
Nurture dominates nature
Throughout, the reader quickly grasps the message that the trait that we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Rather than saying you do not have the talent for something, a more accurate statement would be to say that you do not have the desire to devote the time, energy and focus that it would take for you to excel. There is little hard evidence that anyone could attain a level of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it. In other words, expert performers -- be it in ballet, chess, computer programming, dart playing, golf, memory skills, surgery or writing -- are nearly always made not born. Every talent is a result of a single cerebral process: deliberate practice, that is, engaging in a practice activity with full concentration on improving some aspect of their performances, working on a technique, seeking constant critical feedback and focusing ruthlessly on improving a weaknesses. Perhaps Ericsson, Prietula & Cokely (2007) best sum up this position when they state, "To become an expert, you must discard the myth that genius is born, not made. Scientific research overwhelmingly shows that elite performers come primarily from years of practice, dedicated coaching, and relentless effort to understand and correct mistakes." (p. 5).
Talent is highly overrated
Ericsson's tome challenges all of us to rethink talent as being gifted. His point is that expertise is more a function of practice than of talent. The evidence from his handbook is clear: exceptional performance is typically the result of years of hard work, specifically, daily practice, perseverance, and systematic training. Overnight sensations are nothing of the sort. They are most likely focused individuals who spent at least 10 years honing their talents and skills to achieve excellence in their fields. One key point that Ericsson and his writers makes throughout is that successful individuals spontaneously do things differently from those individuals who stagnate. They exhibit different practice histories. Ericsson is a great believer that success and becoming a successful entrepreneur boils down to 1% inspiration, 29% good tuition and 70% hard work and graft. Moreover, he states that the conventional assumption is that people come into a professional domain have similar experiences and the only difference lies in their innate abilities. He believes that there is little evidence to support this traditional supposition. With the exception of some sports, no characteristic of the brain or body constrains an individual from reaching an expert level. In his handbook, he repeats over and over that elite performers aren't genetically superior. They just do things differently.
What is it that makes us great?
The editors and chapter authors documents several decades of research into answering this chief questions. They mark the first rigorous attempt to understand what makes some of us so great at what we do. Ericsson, the lead editor, says that greatness is highly-specific. First, the exquisite suite of skills required to cross and curl a soccer ball is one specific set of software instructions working with specially-adapted neural hardware; a ballet dancer uses different software and has a different neural network; a violinist a third. Second, greatness takes time, and requires thousands upon thousands of hours of practice -- and it has to be just the right kind of practice. Third, while any number (and perhaps nearly all) of us are born with the tools to develop a specific brand of greatness, none of us are born with the developed tools. And in no case do we develop them solely on our own. Our genes don't drive us so much as we drive our genes.
The strengths of edited handbooks often double as weaknesses. In other words, the duplication of content and repetitive overlap across chapters is often the price paid for having multiple experts inform on the state of the science under study. Although some duplication is present here, especially the suggestion that deliberate practice makes perfect, the extent is small in comparison with many edited works and thus can be easily tolerated here because of the substantive content. And now, to the major strengths of this work ... which are many! Due to space limitations, I shall only comment on eight (8) of them here.
One, the handbook lives up to what its title announces, a volume that brings together a series of research reviews by distinguished psychologists and computer scientists of the methods and results of studies of expertise. Weighing in at 1.75 kilograms / 3.5 pounds, the handbook, simply stated, is a massive series of research articles that define the current state of what we know about expertise and expert performance. This mighty tome includes studies of expertise in a wide variety of fields, including acting, chess, mathematics, medicine, transportation, studies of how to analyze expertise and studies of theoretical and empirical connections between expertise and other fields. This compendium of review articles, all written by 'experts' within their own area of expertise, include an extensive examination of studies of expertise in a broad variety of specific domains, reflecting the maxim that expert performers know more and more about less and less. In short, some 42 chapter articles define the current state of what we know about expertise and expert performances.
Two, with the explosive growth of knowledge in expertise (cf. Aschoff, 2006; Morrow, Leirer, & Altieri, 1992; Patel & Groen, 1991; Richman, Gobet, Staszewski, & Simon, 1996, to cite just a few), this handbook admirably makes summarizing current knowledge a phenomenal task. The section editors and chapter authors have done a very good job at it. Particularly notable are the chapter author's use of prominent studies providing research support. Many recent articles and relevant research studies are cited and described in appropriate length and detail. Chapters are abundant and clear to read, without the clutter that similar handbooks can have.
Three, this handbook is most comprehensive, producing the big picture and certain nuts and bolts. The reader is taken on a journey into the science of several sub-disciplines of the overall nature of human expertise, as theoretical backdrops are noted, and an organized system of delivery with stage-appropriate techniques elucidated. These tall orders are masterfully delivered with clarity, warmth, and a writing style that is encouraging to the reader.
Four, two of the chapters are especially relevant to arts disciplines. One is the chapter on expertise in history, with assessment of research on expertise as it relates to ten characteristics of history experts. The other chapter is on expertise and professional writing. The author of this chapter says professional writers work in many different ways but all these diverse habits have three common features: they "(1) focus attention inward by eliminating distractions, (2) may alter consciousness to facilitate entry in a flow state, and (3) help regulate the writer's emotional state to keep at the task." (pp. 395-396). Professional writers sometimes are blocked in their writing, which can devastate a career. The solution is "Self-regulation through daily writing, brief work sessions, realistic deadlines, and maintaining low emotional arousal" whereas "Binge writing - hypomanic, euphoric, marathon sessions to meet unrealistic deadlines - is generally counterproductive" (p. 396). There's a chapter in the handbook about ageing and expertise, an area of personal interest. As people get older, their cognitive and other functions decline and experts' general cognitive capacities decline like everyone else's. But, miraculously, experts show little if any decline in their efficiency at skill-related tasks. But to maintain their skills, older experts have to keep practicing.
Five, all of the articles provide insights into how various kinds of experts must approach problems in numerous knowledge domains. The authors scientifically proves that determination, goal setting, deliberate practice, getting immediate feedback and doing what you love sets high performers apart from the pack. Organized into six general parts (Introduction and Perspective, Overview of Approaches to the Study of Expertise -- Brief Historical Accounts of Theories and Methods, Methods for Studying the Structure of Expertise, Methods for Studying the Acquisition and Maintenance of Expertise, Domains of Expertise, and Generalizable Mechanisms Mediating Expertise and General Issues), the volume provides a great and comprehensive introduction into the field of knowledge and expertise.
Six, the power of this work lies in its focus on deliberate practice (a focus that is unique among current psychology texts) and in the challenges that Ericsson and his colleagues (Chase & Ericsson, 1981, 1982; Crutcher & Ericsson, 2000; Crutcher, Ericsson & Wichura, 1994; Ericsson & Charness, 1994, 1997; Ericsson & Chase, 1982; Ericsson, Chase, & Faloon, 1980; Ericsson & Crutcher, 1991; Ericsson & Delaney, 1998, 1999; Ericsson, Delaney, Weaver, & Mahadevan, 2004; Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995, 2000; Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Roemer, 1993; Ericsson & Lehmann, 1996; Ericsson, Nadogapal, & Roring, 2005; Ericsson & Oliver, 1988; Ericsson, Patel & Kintsch, 2000; Ericsson & Polson, 1988; Ericsson & Simon, 1980, 1993, 1998; Ericsson & Smith, 1991a, 1991b; Ericsson & Staszewski, 1989; Krampe & Ericsson, 1996; Lehmann & Ericsson, 1998a, 1998b, 1999) bring to current researchers and to those professionals (teachers, clinicians, etc.) who draw conclusions based on the available research.
Seven, I was pleased to find that the handbook was written at a level that is appropriate to master's and doctoral-level students, as it is critically important for students performing thesis and dissertation work to understand the bigger objectives of what it takes to become an expert. More to that point, the breadth of coverage includes topics not found in most books on expertise -- topics such as merging a theory of expertise and intelligence (Chapter 34), aging and expertise (Chapter 40), social and sociological factors in the development of expertise (Chapter 41), and the evidence from case studies to describe expertise in creative thinking (Chapter 42). For those already immersed in the area of expertise and expert performance, this handbook provides an up-to-date review of the literature and an effective, enthusiastic reminder of the work that still needs to be done in this field of research.
Eight and finally, it seems to be traditional in reviews to suggest a suitable audience. Following this tradition, I note that this might not be the best handbook for somebody new to research in expert performers. However, it would be an excellent second book for a novice researcher. Ericsson's own writings (1976, 1985, 1988, 1996a, 1996b, 1988, 1999, 2000a, 2000b, 2001a, 2001b, 2002a, 2002b, 2003a 2003b, 2003c, 2003d, 2003e, 2003f, 2004) well summarize the current knowledge on the structure and acquisition of expert skills, including relevant discussions for future prospects.
Two key questions need to be addressed now: One, what is the value of this handbook and two, for whom is it valuable? The handbook is undoubtedly of value for any university faculty wanting a better grasp of the vocabulary and terminology of expertise. I also recommend the handbook to college juniors or seniors who are taking a first course in human expertise. This handbook would provide them with a reference tool that would enhance the vocabulary and terminology acquisition process. Everyone who is working on cognitive analysis will probably find several useful articles. I especially enjoyed the summary of expert systems (Chapter 6) by Buchanan, Davis and Feigenbaum, the article on task analysis (Chapter 11) by Schraagen, the article on representing the knowledge of experts (Chapter 12) by Hoffman and Lintern, the article on protocol analysis (Chapter 13) by Ericsson, and the article on simulation (Chapter 14) by Ward, Williams and Hancock. I also enjoyed articles an expertise in software design (Chapter 21) by Sonnentag, Niessen and Volmer and the one on professional writing expertise (Chapter 22) by Kellogg. And I found the article on decision-making expertise (Chapter 24) by Yates and Tschirhart very worthwhile.
For those interested in a behavior analytic slant to extraordinary performance, the Handbook provides an very useful point of view on how others have investigated this topic. Similar to what other reviewers of this same Handbook have stated (cf. Critchfield, 2007; Hamon, 2006), this handbook contains detailed descriptions of what expert performers do differently from others, how they acquire their skills and how these things are exhibited in a variety of skill domains (including chess, medicine, mathematics, and software design). The most useful and challenging chapters for behavior analysts, however, are those that explain the scientific methods that have been used to study expertise.
In sum, this handbook provides a great and comprehensive introduction into the whole field of knowledge and expertise. The chapters on what make experts provide a detailed review of the research. For example, human experts usually rely on something like 10,000 rules. They normally maintain concept networks that are organized into around seven hierarchal levels. Thus, some rules are used to analyze a problem from a more abstract perspective, some are used for more specific analysis, while still other rules are very concrete and are only used when specific types of problems are encountered. Experience and new information play vital rules in the maintenance of expertise, and thus, an expert, (or a software system) separated from conferences and specific problems, soon begins to lose his or her edge. The end product is a very long but readable and likeable Handbook that will appeal to undergraduate as well as graduate students. I sometimes teach a graduate-level class in developmental psychology and can see myself using parts or all of this handbook for that class. I also see how this handbook could nicely fit in an undergraduate class on developmental psychology precisely because the questions answered are often the ones asked by the typical developmental psychology student, especially as they relate to more everyday actions and activities related to the making of an experts.
I have yet to examine a handbook that is comprehensive and as is the case with most first editions, this volume is no exception. But to be fair to the editors and numerous chapter authors, in a volume that covers as much information as this one does, it is always possible to find minor things to quibble about. But the following six (6) weaknesses are minor!
One, I found that overall, most of the chapter authors studied mainly experts, yet they longed to generalize their findings to include non-experts. Thus, their study evidently suffers from some selection bias. For example, boys with good athletic skills are more likely to enjoy athletics than boys who are weak, have poor eyesight, are obese, etc. Boys who enjoy athletics are thus far more likely to become good athletes than boys who do not participate in athletics. But the boys who enjoy athletics will, on the whole, have superior athletic skills to begin with. To continue the metaphor, Ericsson and company seem to have studied only those who began with superior athletic skills.
Taken together, these findings demonstrate that experts presumably have chosen to do what they love. And why do they (or did they) love what they do? Because they were good at doing it -- relative to doing other things -- in the first place. Yes, experts become experts because they study and practice that at which they eventually excel. But they choose to study and practice that which they like to do, and they like to do those things for which they had some talent to begin with. From this argument, one could easily conclude that the editors and chapter authors have proved nothing beyond what most of us know from experience, casual observation, and good old common sense. Experts are born with certain talents and then they become experts because they cultivate those talents. Experts are born and made. But they must be born with a degree of talent that allows them to make themselves into experts.
Two, with the number of older adults aged 65 and over expected to increase from 35 million in 2000 to an estimated 71 million in 2030 in the United States -- roughly 20 percent of the population (Kinsella & Velkoff, 2001) -- the concern for how to provide the necessary resources, particularly for early detection of disease and maintenance of age-related issues, is upon all of us. I was thus expecting Rakf Th. Krampe and Neil Charness, the authors of Chapter 40 (Aging and Expertise), to paint a more positive image as they described the changes in expertise brought about by the aging process. They began chapter 40 (pp. 723-742) with a brief historical sketch of scientific concepts related to abilities and the relationship of these to adult development" (pp. 723-724). Then they comment on "the concept of general, age-related slowing and its relations to the different theoretical accounts for expert performance in later adulthood" (p. 724). They conclude by focusing "on the trade-offs that may be critical to expertise in advancing age: between deliberate practice , and its potential to maintain performance, and aging processes that work to degrade performance" (p. 724). For the cognitive neuroscience foreigner, the overall message from authors Krampe and Charness is that aging affects expert performance in apparently mostly deleterious ways (see Salthouse, 1984, 1989, 1990, for similar inferences). For all aging readers (this means you and me), this pervasive conclusion tends to be a bit depressing.
My highly personal reaction, in reading this chapter was: (1) Doesn't anything advantageous ever come of aging regarding brain structure and cognitive functioning of older adults? (2) What about all the learning and happenings that characterize older folks? My personal whining aside, I found modest or no focus on positives in this chapter. It would have been nice to have read, occasionally, that the result of decades of learning and experience may result in some small neurocognitive strengths. As Krampe and Charness noted minuscule comments about the encouraging potential of the aging process, I digress here slightly to present a more positive part.
Unlike many others, I do not dread the thought of getting old. To prove my point, I sought out research fostering a more positive approach, perhaps something fostering Cicero's elucidation some 2,000 years earlier in his De Senectute -- that later life could be one of vitality and activity. Initially, I studied Gene Cohen's (2005) The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, wherein he suggests the following four novel stages of psychological development during our later years of life: (1) Original brain cells do form throughout life. (2) The brain is continually resculpting itself in response to experience and learning. (3) The emotional circuitry of our brain matures and becomes more balanced with age, and (4) The two hemispheres of our brain are more equally used by older adults.
Equally revealing was reading that Cohen conceptualizes the aging process as neither a period involving deterioration of the mind and body nor as a phase of life characterized by an attempt to minimize inevitable decline (for a similar viewpoint, see Rowe & Kahn, 1998). Rather, living as an older adult is presented as a time for potential new direction involving intellectual development, creative growth and blossoming social relationships. Drawing on his clinical experience, Cohen discusses a fluid and dynamic approach to the aging process that involves acquisition of advanced forms of thinking and reasoning that can be attained only from years of life experience. Moreover, Cohen shares anecdotal accounts drawn from his personal interactions with family members and patients. Moreover, Cohen presents the state of retirement not as a negative concept characterized by boredom and deterioration but as a new phase of life filled with seemingly boundless opportunities for positive growth heretofore unavailable owing to time constraints associated with occupational responsibilities. In the context of providing a realistic but more optimistic perspective of aging, he presents an excellent overview, in easy-to-read language, of contemporary and important research in the fields of developmental neuroscience. Consider that it was not until relatively recently that scientists viewed most aspects of human brain development to be complete by late childhood or adolescence and then essentially static after this time (for a detailed account of this viewpoint, the more interested reader is referred to Kolb & Wishaw, 2006).
To conclude my personal rant on the positive side of aging, the generally accepted stance was also that after a given age, speculated to be during adolescence or early adulthood, brain cells, once damaged, were incapable of healing, and the brain was unable to produce new cells to take their place. Although many of the theoretical contentions presented by Cohen, such as the concept of an Inner Push consisting of internal drives that fuel development and provide energy for positive change, have not yes been subjected to sufficient empirical investigation, they are presented, as noted previously, in conjunction with anecdotal cases and in parallel with lines of research that offer indirect evidence for their existence. Such a positive approach lends credibility to these assertions and provides a basis for potentially new and exciting avenues for future study. During the past two decades, research in the neurosciences has revealed that these and many other previously held views are false. It has now been established that the learning skills behind the aging process result in physical changes within the structures of the brain not only during childhood and adolescence but throughout our entire life span. Perchance then, aging as a stage of decay is little more than a myth! In addition, the increased architectural complexity within the brain secondary to enriched environmental stimulation also manifests in a form of cognitive reserve that acts as a protective mechanism against injury and disease (cf. Kolb & Whishaw, 2006; to read additional encouraging viewpoints on the aging process, see Lazarus & Lazarus, 2006: Morley & van den Berg, 2000; see especially Schaie & Willis, 1996).
Three, with the extensive publications over the past quarter century on the overall nature of expertise, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that none of the chapter authors or editors commented on the development of any formal method for assessing one's overall level of expertise. However, all is not lost as one such researcher has already commenced such a procedure. Marie-Line Germain, of Barry University and City College, Miami, Florida, has recently attempted to design a measure of perception of employee expertise: the Generalized Expertise Measure (GEM). During a recently presented paper, Germaine (2006b) elaborated (somewhat) the steps, methods, and hypothetical results of quantitative and qualitative studies being conducted to develop the GEM (Germain, 2006a). To cite directly from the concluding section of her paper:
Developing a scale that could measure expertise across a variety of fields could be of great help to Human Resource Development professionals. Such a scale could identify individuals that may or may not possess expert-like skills. The GEM may therefore be a useful tool for selection and hiring procedures.
Germain's investigation is the first, to my knowledge, to conceptualize an assessment tool for measuring human expertise. A thorough search of recent literature associated with the immediate above failed to reveal any additional research studies similar to what she has recently implemented. Or, to put it another way, Germain's methodology is highly exploratory in nature. Thus any conclusions presented here are highly speculative. That is, her scales must be treated with extreme suspect, until replication with different and larger samples and other populations have been clarified. Nonetheless, I feel that her efforts in attempting to develop an expertise assessment tool deserved consideration here.
Four, the handbook failed to include a practical appendix titled “Other Useful Resources on Expertise and Expert Performance” that could provides names, addresses, contact numbers, Web addresses, and short summaries of a host of agencies and organizations focused on expertise and expert performances. Such an appendix could also contains a list of texts on expertise and expert performances as well as a selection of books for graduate students that portray expertise and expert performances in a positive light.
Five, this remark is not so much a critique of the handbook as it is a suggestion for possible inclusion into the next edition or printing. My comment here stems from reading three other recently published books: (1) Michael Cole, Karl Levitin and Alexander Luria's (2005) The Autobiography of Alexander Luria: A Dialogue with The Making of Mind. (2) Jay Friedenberg and Gordon Silverman's (2006) Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Study of the Mind, and Andy Field's (2005) Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (2nd ed.).
These three books included numerous ancillaries to promote their more effective usage. In the Autobiography, authors Cole and Levitin included a DVD consisting of a series of interviews from prominent scholars who knew and worked closely with Alexander Romanovich Luria (to read about some of the contents of this DVD, the more interested reader is referred to http://www.igs.net/~cmorris/review_the_making_of_mind.htm). Cole and Levitin also invited the reader to consult their website (http://luria.ucsd.edu/), especially constructed to accompany their book. In Cognitive Science, Friedenberg and Silverman also generated a companion website (http://www.sagepub.com/CSstudy/) featuring online student-friendly exercises, E-flash cards, interactive quizzes, an instructors’ CD-ROM with a test bank, chapter outlines, PowerPoint slides, a sample syllabus and ideas for student projects. And in Discovering Statistics, Andy Field, as well, included a companion CD containing a wealth of SPSS data sets from the textbook examples, answers to the end-of-chapter learning exercises (Smart Alex's Tasks), a power calculation program, and several appendixes covering more advanced topics. Field's companion web site (http://www.sagepub.co.uk/field/) contained student resources (e-flashcards, student questions) and instructor resources (test bank, PowerPoint slides) available to those who may wish to adopt the book as a course text. Taken together, those supplementary references greatly enhanced the overall quality and, perhaps as important, the marketability of all three books. Perchance the editors might consider incorporating such similar add-ons into their next printing or edition.
Six, and finally, although research reviews throughout the text seem to have been carefully checked, a few mistakes escaped the editing phase. Due to space limitations, I shall only comment on some of them here. Lauren Sosniak, the author of Chapter 16 (Retrospective Interviews in the Study of Expertise and Expert Performance), was omitted from the list of Contributors (p. xv). Other minor proofreading errors include:
- On page 297, a left-hand column citation reads "(Sosniak, 1987; Poser, 1988), See also Zimmerman, Chapter 39.” when it should read “(Sosniak, 1987; Poser, 1988; see also Zimmerman, Chapter 39).”
- On page 325, a left-hand column citation reads “(Simonton, 1986b); Simanton, 1989b” when it should read “(Simonton, 1986b, 1989b),”
- On page 345, a right-hand column citation reads “[Simon & Chase, 1973])” when it should read “(Simon & Chase, 1973)”
- On page 472, a left-hand column citation “[Starkes & Ericsson, 2003)” contains no corresponding reference, on page 487.
- On page 548, a right-hand column citation reads “(Maguire et al., 2000). (In the case of” when it should read “(Maguire et al., 2000). In the case of”
- In the end, such inconsequential shortcomings do not detract from the tremendous usefulness of this handbook, a resource that will be useful to most educators and professionals, be it college teachers or professional support staff (psychologists, counselors, administrators, etc.). In addition, it focus on aspects of expert performance that is often neglected in college classrooms.
In conclusion, this very huge but valuable volume fills a significant void in the scientific literature on expertise; it offers comprehensive and up-to-date information to anyone interested in the overall nature of expert performers. More importantly, this book is much needed, in that it brings scores of issues relevant to genius (see sidebar) together into a single volume. It is filled with useful perspectives and ideas that cannot help but enhance one's approach to the study and analysis of expertise. The tome also serves the notable duty of revisiting the topics of many of Karl Anders Ericsson's earlier and leading works on expertise and expert performance. In short, I would certainly recommend this handbook to anyone who is interested in expertise.
The first few chapters represent a first-rate discussion about expert knowledge and how experts process knowledge. The chapter on creativity is very engaging. I personally do not agree with the distinction between experts and expertise (I think most experts usually do what to them are routine performances but they have the ability to attack greater problems from time to time), but the ensuing discussions are informative. The uniqueness of this handbook is displayed on virtually every page, with detail to the underlying developmental processes unmatched.
As is always true with any edited volume, there is slight variation from chapter to chapter. That said, none of the chapters are poorly written. Rather, the variability relates primarily to the complexity of the material that the chapter authors and editors present and the interest or relevance of the topic to the general reader. The presentations of diverse perspectives are balanced, and claims are scrutinized on the basis of empirical evidence. The authors and editors have done a good job of following similar structures in their presentations without creating a lot of repetition: Each chapter has something unique to say and yet relates back to the main themes of the handbook -- understanding the overall nature of expertise..
Rarely have I found a handbook so uniformly valuable. That is, The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance deserves to be read, cover to cover, by all practicing cognitive psychologists, expert system builders who focus their work on the development of new expertise, national policy makers and psychological researchers, and graduate students working in the field of cognitive science. No one will turn its final page without having gained precious information and wisdom that will directly and noticeably improve their practice of expertise and expert performance.
Aschoff, Susan (May 27, 2006). Anyone can have his shot. St. Petersburg Times. Here is part of her interview with Anders Ericsson.
You’ve been called the ringleader of the expert performance movement. What is that? I started to do this work trying to understand how people could improve their memory. As I saw the tremendous effects of training on memory performance, I got interested in looking at people who were experts at other things. I was asking if those people who were successful in virtually any domain had done something to be that successful.
So memory enhances expertise. You also talk about deliberate practice. Can you explain that to me? Deliberate practice is to repeat what you’re doing so you can correct it. Experience does not improve performance. Some amateur golfers can play at the same level for 30 years, and they don’t automatically get better. Once people reach some acceptable level, they seem to get stuck there. In order to keep improving, you need to structure your training around specific goals. If you are a golfer, you don’t just stand there and hit balls as hard as you can.
Do you mean that practice or experience isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be? Not all experts are performing at consistently high levels. Stockbrokers who invest in the market are not necessarily more successful than average individuals. Psychotherapists who have extensive training and experience are not more successful than those with much less training. We’re really not interested in socially defined expertise. We’re interested in expert performance where people can consistently do things at a superior level. Then we can start asking, what are they thinking when they’re successful, and how is their developmental history different?
What about the child star, the one who can play concert violin at age 3 or hit the ball out of the park in Little League? When we go back and look at these talented children, we see all kinds of training activities. When I read biographies of olympic athletes, I found that even as children they set up competitive games for themselves -- how long it took to complete the obstacle course. Competition almost forces people to come up with feedback. Sounds like we’re all supposed to be stage parents. In the long run, most children will rebel. If a child doesn’t want to engage in deliberate practice, there’s no way you can force them. It’s problem-solving. You can’t push someone to do it if they don’t want to.
Can you apply your research to many areas of expertise?We’re doing research on police officers and critical care nurses. A lot of the things that happen for a critical care nurse or police officer -- it’s not like they’ve had that happen before. You want them to handle that first time successfully. We look at what the most skilled people do and think, and convert it to a methodology for all to use.
Bloom, B. (Ed.). (1985). Developing talent in young people. New York: Ballantine Books.
In his pioneering 1985 study, Benjamin Bloom, at the time, a professor of education at the University of Chicago, published the above-named landmark book; it examined the critical factors that contributed to talent. Very simply stated for here, he and his colleagues studied the developmental history of scientists, athletes and artists who had attained international awards for their outstanding achievements. He took a deep retrospective peek into the childhoods of 120 elite performers who had won international competitions or awards in fields ranging from neurology to music and mathematics to the arts. These elite performers did not attain their performance from regular experience in their respective domains but were given access to superior instruction in the best educational environments. One thing emerged very clearly from his work: All the superb performers he investigated had practiced intensively, had studied with devoted teachers, and had been supported enthusiastically by their families throughout their developing years.
To his surprise, Bloom's research findings suggested no early indicators that could have predicted their eventual claim to fame. Their families provided them substantial financial and emotional support to allow them to focus fully on the development of their performance. Bloom found that almost all high achievers were blessed with at least one crucial mentor as they neared maturity. He came to see great talent as less an individual trait than a creation of environment and encouragement. "We were looking for exceptional kids," he was to have said, "and what we found were exceptional conditions." He was intrigued to find that few of the study's subjects had shown special promise when they first took up the fields which they later excelled in, and most harbored no early ambition for stellar achievement. Rather, they were encouraged as children in a general way to explore and learn, then supported in more focused ways as they began to develop an area they particularly liked.
Chase, W. G., & Ericsson, K. A.. (1981). Skilled memory. In J. R. Anderson (Ed.), Cognitive skills and their acquisition (pp. 141-189). Hillsdale , NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Chase, W. G., & Ericsson, K. A.. (1982). Skill and working memory. In G. H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 16, pp. 1-58). New York: Academic Press.
In this book chapter, summary author David Zach Hambrick "review the skilled memory theory and relevant findings. Briefly, a positive effect of experience on memory for domain-specific information has been demonstrated in a wide range of domains. For example, Egan and Schwartz demonstrated the skilled memory effect using diagrams of circuits. Akin showed that architects recall building plans in terms of ordered patterns. Shneiderman showed that expert computer programmers had superior memory for lines of code from a meaningful, but not from a nonsense, FORTRAN computer program. Why are these findings important? After all, it only makes sense that experts would have better memory for domain-specific material than novices."
Cohen, D. Gene. (2005). The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain, New York: Basic Books.
In this book, Cohen sets out a positive stage for a relatively new perspective on aging. Cast in the light of four novel stages of psychological development during the later years of life, Cohen conceptualizes the aging process as neither a period involving deterioration of the mind and body nor as a phase of life characterized by an attempt to minimize inevitable decline. Rather, it is presented as a time for potential new direction involving intellectual development, creative growth, and blossoming social relationships.
Drawing on his own personal clinical experience, Cohen discusses a fluid and dynamic approach to the aging process that involves acquisition of advanced forms of thinking and reasoning that can be attained only from years of life experience. Indeed, throughout the text, he shares anecdotal accounts drawn from his personal interactions with family members and patients. On the basis of the findings of his own groundbreaking research, Cohen presents retirement not as a negative concept characterized by boredom and deterioration but as a new phase of life filled with seemingly boundless opportunities for positive growth heretofore unavailable owing to time constraints associated with occupational responsibilities.
To sum, in the context of providing a realistic but more optimistic perspective of aging, Cohen presents an excellent overview, in easy-to-read language, of contemporary and important research in the fields of developmental neuroscience. I found this book to be an excellent work which was both informative and enjoyable to read. It is written such that it would be beneficial for both laypersons and health care professionals.
Collier, Christopher Percy. (November 2006). The Expert on Experts: An Expert Guide to Expertise, Fast Company.com, Issue 110, p. 116. In a recent interview, Collier asked Ericsson to respond to the following four questions: (1) Is talent overrated? (2) What do you have to do to become the best? (3) Can you explain how deliberate practice works? and (4) So does experience matter?
Coyle, Daniel. (March 04, 2007). How to grow a super-athlete Play: The New York Times Play/Sports Magazine.
"Every talent, according to Ericsson, is the result of a single process: deliberate practice, which he defines as "individuals engaging in a practice activity with full concentration on improving some aspect of their performance. Deliberate practice means working on technique, seeking constant critical feedback and focusing ruthlessly on improving weaknesses."
Critchfield, Thomas, S.. (2007). Behavior Analysis and the Best of the Best: A Review of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, Association for Behavior Analysis International Newsletter, 30(1).
"Would that some guidance existed about how to undertake a systematic investigation of elite human performance! As it happens, a great deal has been written about expertise and methods for studying it, a literature that is nicely summarized in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, 2006). The volume is essential reading for anyone who believes in the capacity of behavior analysis to make a difference in high-level human affairs. To be sure, this is not a behavior-analytic treatise, and challenges exist for those who imagine transporting behavior analysis into domains of peak expertise (more on this shortly). An important point not to be lost in the meantime is that that studies of expertise converge on a perspective that should hearten functional thinkers everywhere."
Crutcher, R. J., & Ericsson , K. A.. (2000). The role of mediators in memory retrieval as a function of practice: Controlled mediation to direct access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 1297-1317.
Crutcher, R. J., Ericsson, K. A., & Wichura, C. A.. (1994). Improving the encoding of verbal reports using MPAS: A computer-aided encoding system. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 26(2), 167-171.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. (1990a). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Collins.
Csikszentmihalyi, M.. (1990b, Spring). Literacy and intrinsic motivation. Daedalus, 119(2), 115-140.
Csikszentmihalyi, M.. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Collins.
Dawes, R. M.. (1994). House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. New York: Free Press.
Dobbs, David. (September 16, 2006). How to be a Genius. New Scientist, Vol. 191, Issue 2569, pp. 40-43.
"It seems that the facility that we are so fond of calling talent or even genius arises not from innate gifts but from an interplay of fair (but not extraordinary) natural ability, quality instruction, and a mountain of work. This new discipline -- a mix of psychology and cognitive science -- has now produced its first large collection of expert reviews, the 2006 weighty, massive and comprehensive The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. The handbook essentially tells us to forget the notion that genius, talent or any other innate qualities create the greats we call geniuses."
Dubner, Stephen, J. & Levitt, Steven D. (May 7, 2006). A Star is Made: Where Does Talent Really Come, The New York Times Magazine.
"Ericsson and his colleagues studied expert performers in a wide range of pursuits, including soccer, golf, surgery, piano playing, Scrabble, writing, chess, software design, stock picking and darts. They gathered all the data they could, not just performance statistics and biographical details but also the results of their own laboratory experiments with high achievers. Their work, compiled in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance makes a rather startling assertion: the characteristic that humans commonly label talent is vastly glorified. Or, put another way, expert performers -- whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming -- are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true."
Ericsson, K. A.. (1976). Approaches to descriptions and analyses of problem-solving processes: The 8-puzzle. Reports from the Department of Psychology, the University of Stockholm, Supplement No. 32 (Doctoral dissertation).
Ericsson, K. A.. (1985). Memory skill. Canadian Journal of Psychology , 39 (2), 188-231.
Ericsson, K. A.. (1988). Concurrent verbal reports on reading and text comprehension. Text , 8 (4), 295-325.
Ericsson, K. A.. (1996a). The acquisition of expert performance: An introduction to some of the issues. In K. A. Ericsson (Ed.), The road to excellence: The acquisition of expert performance in the arts and sciences, sports, and games (pp. 1-50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
In this book chapter, summary author David Zach Hambrick states that "One of the greatest challenges facing researchers interested in expert performance is the limited access to experts. Experts are rare, particularly if one adopts a definition of expert performance in which the expert is defined as statistical outlier. Nevertheless, in research on expert performance, there are alternatives to laboratory studies. In this chapter, Ericsson describes three complementary alternative approaches."
Ericsson, K. A.. (Ed.) (1996b). The road to excellence: The acquisition of expert performance in the arts and sciences, sports, and games. Mahweh, NJ: Erlbaum.
In this book, summary author David Zach Hambrick comments that "This book covers skill mastery in many domains (golf, wrestling, chess, music), showing the commonalities that lie at the heart of exceptional, as apposed to average, performance (e.g. consistent, focused practices over years characterized by high quality feedback, the need for the individual to master self-regulation if he or she wants to increase skill over time, etc.) It also provides a cautionary tale, in the form of a golf pro who developed exceptional skill but who never achieved the type of fame or wealth of say a Jack Nicholas. Why? Because skill too narrowly defined, no mater how great, does not lead to achievement. You have to take in the total context (social, political, etc) if you want your "skill" to lead to widespread recognition. At least that's what I took away from my reading. While the book doesn't lay out an explicit "blue print" for applying it's information, it is still a wonderful resource for trainers or teachers looking to develop high level instruction and to mentor those pursuing peak performance."
Ericsson, K. A.. (1998). The Scientific Study of Expert Levels of Performance: General Implications for Optimal Learning and Creativity. High Ability Studies, 9(1), 75-100.
Ericsson, K. A.. (1999). Creative expertise as superior reproducible performance: Innovative and flexible aspects of expert performance. Psychological Inquiry, 10(4), 329-333.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2000a). Expertise in interpreting: An expert-performance perspective. Interpreting, 5(2), 187-220.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2000b). How experts attain and maintain superior performance: Implications for the enhancement of skilled performance in older individuals. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 8, 346-352.
Expertise refers to the mechanisms underlying the top-quality accomplishment of an expert, i.e. "one who has acquired special skill in or knowledge of a particular subjects through professional training and practical experience" (Webster's dictionary, 1976, p. 800). The term expert is used to describe highly experienced professionals such as accountants, medical doctors, teachers and scientists, including individuals who attained their superior performance by instruction and extended practice: highly skilled performers in the arts, such as music, painting and writing, sports, such as swimming, running and golf and games, such as bridge and chess.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2001a). The path to expert golf performance: Insights from the masters on how to improve performance by deliberate practice. In P. R. Thomas (Ed.), Optimizing performance in golf (pp. 1-57). Brisbane, Australia: Australian Academic Press.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2001b). Protocol analysis in psychology. In N. Smelser and P. Baltes (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (pp. 12256-12262). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2002a). Attaining excellence through deliberate practice: Insights from the study of expert performance. In M. Ferrari (Ed.), The pursuit of excellence in education (pp. 21-55). Hillsdale , N.J. : Erlbaum.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2002b). Toward a procedure for eliciting verbal expression of nonverbal experience without reactivity: Interpreting the verbal overshadowing effect within the theoretical framework for protocol analysis. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 981-987.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2003a). The acquisition of expert performance as problem solving: Construction and modification of mediating mechanisms through deliberate practice. In J. E. Davidson and R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Problem solving (pp. 31-83). New York : Cambridge University Press.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2003b). The development of elite performance and deliberate practice: An update from the perspective of the expert-performance approach. In J. Starkes and K. A. Ericsson (Eds.), Expert performance in sport: Recent advances in research on sport expertise (pp. 49-81). Champaign , IL : Human Kinetics
Ericsson, K. A.. (2003c). Exceptional memorizers: made, not born. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(6), 233-235.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2003d). How the expert-performance approach differs from traditional approaches to expertise in sports: In search of a shared theoretical framework for studying expert performance. In J. Starkes and K. A. Ericsson (Eds.), Expert performance in sport: Recent advances in research on sport expertise (pp. 371-401). Champaign , IL : Human Kinetics.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2003e). The search for general abilities and basic capacities: Theoretical implications from the modifiability and complexity of mechanisms mediating expert performance. In R. J. Sternberg and E. L. Grigorenko (Eds.), Perspectives on the psychology of abilities, competencies, and expertise (pp. 93-125). Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Ericsson, K. A.. (2003f). Valid and non-reactive verbalization of thoughts during performance of tasks: Toward a solution to the central problems of introspection as a source of scientific data. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10(9-10), 1-18 .
Ericsson, K. A.. (2004). Deliberate practice and the acquisition and maintenance of expert performance in medicine and related domains. Academic Medicine, 10, S1-S12.
Ericsson, K. A., & Charness, N.. (August, 1994). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition. American Psychologist, 49(8), 725-747.
Ericsson, K. A. & Charness, N.. (1997). Cognitive and developmental factors in expert performance. In P. J. Feltovich, K. M. Ford, & R. R. Hoffman (Eds.), Expertise in context: Human and machine (pp 3-41). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ericsson, K. A., & Chase, W. G.. (1982). Exceptional memory. American Scientist, 70, 607-615.
Ericsson, K. A., Chase, W. G., & Faloon, S.. (1980). Acquisition of a memory skill. Science , 208, 1181-1182.
Ericsson, K. A., & Crutcher, R. J.. (1991). Introspection and verbal reports on cognitive processes - two approaches to the study of thought processes: A response to Howe. New Ideas in Psychology, 9, 57-71.
Ericsson, K. A., & Delaney, P. F.. (1998). Working memory and expert performance. In R. H. Logie and K. J. Gilhooly (Eds.), Working Memory and Thinking (pp. 93-114). Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Ericsson, K. A., & Delaney, P. F.. (1999). Long-term working memory as an alternative to capacity models of working memory in everyday skilled performance. In A. Miyake and P. Shah (Eds.), Models of Working Memory: Mechanisms of Active Maintenance and Executive Control (pp. 257-297), Cambridge , UK : Cambridge University Press.
Ericsson, K. A., Delaney, P. F., Weaver, G., & Mahadevan, R.. (2004). Uncovering the structure of a memorist's superior “basic” memory capacity. Cognitive Psychology.
Ericsson, K. A., & Kintsch, W.. (1995). Long-term working memory. Psychological Review, 102(2), 211-245.
In this article, summary author David Zach Hambrick states that "The sine qua non of skilled cognitive performance is the ability to access large amounts of domain specific information. For example, it is estimated that chess masters have access to as many as 100,000 familiar configurations of chess pieces (Chase & Simon, 1973). As another example, in order to make sense of what he or she is reading, a reader must have access to information gained from previously read text. This is particularly true when reading complex technical material filled with jargon."
Ericsson, K. A., & Kintsch, W.. (2000). Shortcomings of generic retrieval structures with slots of the type that Gobet (1993) proposed and modeled. British Journal of Psychology, 91, 571-588.
Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Romer, C.. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance Psychological Review, 100, 363-406. To read a longer summary of this article, click here
In this journal article, summary author David Zach Hambrick comments that "This study was one of the first and arguably the most influential contributions to the expertise literature that defines and provides a detailed theoretical account of a key component of skill acquisition (deliberate practice) and assesses its contribution over the lifespan in the context of a complex and ecologically valid cognitive skill, the high-level performance of a musical instrument. The demonstration of a close relationship between achievement level and cumulated hours of deliberate practice is one of the most important and compelling contributions to the debate about the explanation of "talent" that has been published this century."
Ericsson, K. A., & Lehmann, A. C.. (1996). Expert and exceptional performance: Evidence of maximal adaptation to task. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 273-305.
In this journal article, summary author David Zach Hambrick comments that "The focus of this paper is the adaptability of human behavior to environmental demands. A major assumption of the talent view of expert performance is that while practice is necessary, asymptotic performance levels are constrained by stable, invariant constraints. By contrast, Ericsson and Lehmann assert that "The belief that most anatomical and physiological characteristics are unmodifiable and thus reflect innate talent is not valid for expert performance acquired through at least a decade of intense practice" (p. 279). The cite evidence from studies of expert performers (e.g., ballet dancers) showing that adaptations--for example, to the musculature--are the result of very specific types of stimulation. In addition, there is evidence showing no differences between experts and novices on general measures of cognitive and perceptual functioning. To illustrate, the correlation between IQ and domain-specific performance decreases with continued practice. (However, what does an initially stronger correlation suggest? One possibility is that general factors play a role early -- as Fleishman and Ackerman have proposed."
Ericsson, K. A., Nadogapal, K., & Roring, R. W.. (Spring, 2005). Giftedness from the expert-performance perspective. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 28(3/4), 287-311.
Ericsson, K. A., & Oliver, W., L.. (1988). Methodology for laboratory research on thinking: Task selection, collection of observations, and data analysis. In R. J. Sternberg & E. E. Smith (Eds.), The psychology of human thought (pp. 392 - 428). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ericsson, K. A., Patel, V. L., & Kintsch, W.. (2000). How experts' adaptations to representative task demands account for the expertise effect in memory recall: Comment on Vicente and Wang (1998). Psychological Review, 107, 578-592.
Ericsson, K. A., & Polson, P. G.. (1988). An experimental analysis of the mechanisms of a memory skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 14, 305-316.
Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T. (2007, July/August). The making of an expert. Harvard Business Review, Volume 85(7/8), 5, 114-121.
In this most recent article, the authors challenges the conventional belief that expertise and genius are synonymous with societal success. In other words we often credit and lament brilliant individuals among us as geniuses, byproducts of the perfect storm within gene pools. The authors studied data on the behavior of experts gathered by more than 100 scientists as they wrestled with the popular lore that geniuses are born and not made. Throughout eight pages, they discuss scientific research that shows experts are developed through years of dedicated practice and coaching, not simply born into their expertise. According to their findings, leaders can improve abilities through deliberate practice, feedback, and inner coaching. Regular practice is not sufficient alone to become an expert. Instead, to reach the highest levels in your field, you must reach to expand your abilities that are outside your comfort zone and you must do this in a continuous and disciplined manner. They state that becoming an expert is a long road (at least a decade) and requires guidance.
What consistently distinguished elite surgeons, chess players, writers, athletes, pianists, and other experts was the habit of engaging in deliberate practice--a sustained focus on tasks that they couldn't do before. Experts continually analyzed what they did wrong, adjusted their techniques, and worked arduously to correct their errors. Even such traits as charisma can be developed using this technique. Working with a drama school, the authors created a set of acting exercises for managers that remarkably enhanced executives' powers of charm and persuasion. Through deliberate practice, leaders can improve their ability to win over their employees, their peers, or their board of directors. The journey to elite performance is not for the impatient or the faint of heart. It takes at least a decade and requires the guidance of an expert teacher to provide tough, often painful feedback. It also demands would-be experts to develop their inner coach and
Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A.. (1980, May). Verbal reports as data, Psychological review, 87(3), 215-251.
Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A.. (1993). Protocol analysis; Verbal reports as data: Revised Edition. Cambridge, MA: Bradford books/MIT Press.
Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A.. (1998). How to study thinking in everyday life: Contrasting think-aloud protocols with descriptions and explanations of thinking. Mind, Culture, & Activity, 5(3), 178-186.
Ericsson, K. A., & Smith, J.. (Eds.) (1991a). Prospects and limits of the empirical study of expertise: An introduction. In K. A. Ericsson & J. Smith (Eds.), Toward a general theory of expertise (pp. 1--38). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ericsson, K. A., & Smith, J.. (Eds.) (1991b). Toward a general theory of expertise: Prospects and limits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ericsson, K. A., & Staszewski, J. J.. (1989). Skilled memory and expertise: Mechanisms of exceptional performance. In D. Klahr & K. Kotovsky (Eds.), Complex information processing: The impact of Herbert A. Simon (pp. 235-267). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
In this book chapter, summary author David Zach Hambrick comments that "The early work on expertise showed that novice-expert differences in domain-specific performance can be accounted for by differences in amount of knowledge: experts are more knowledgeable than novices. For example, Chase and Simon estimated that expert chess players have a vocabulary of up to 50,000 patterns representing familiar configurations of chess pieces. While appealing to differences in amount of knowledge to explain expert-novice differences makes good sense, it presents what Ericsson and Staszewski call a "thorny" problem: How do experts process an enormous amount of information given that they are subject to the same basic information processing demands as novices? More specifically, "How is it that experts bring more knowledge to bear on problem solving and skilled performance than novices and at the same time perform more quickly and accurately" (p. 237)?"
Gardner, Howard. (1995). Expert performance: Its structure and acquisition
In this journal article, summary author David Zach Hambrick comments that "Gardner challenges Ericsson and Charness' view that acquisition of and individual differences in expert performance can be explained solely in terms of amount of deliberate practice. Gardner's argument is that Ericsson and Charness make a weak case for the view that innate factors do not predispose certain individuals to learn certain skills faster than others. Gardner dismisses the deliberate practice notion for several reasons. First, g is relatively impervious to practice effects and intelligent children are more likely to become "expert thinkers" than less intelligent children. In other words, basic abilities influence the ease with which and rate at which skills are acquired. Second, Gardner points out that people who are most likely to engage in extensive deliberate practice are also the people who are most successful in the domain. Third, Gardner questions whether laboratory tasks can really capture the essence of expert performance. Finally, Gardner contends that while training must play an important role in the development of expert performance, ignoring the influence of individual differences in organizmic factors such as motivation and "computational powers" diminishes the validity of Ericsson and Charness' proposal."
Germain, Marie-Line. (2006a). Development and preliminary validation of a psychometric measure of expertise: The generalized expertise measure (GEM). Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation. Barry University, Miami, Florida.
Germain, M. L. (2006b). Stages of psychometric measure development: The example of the generalized expertise measure (GEM). Paper presented at the Academy of Human Resource Development International (AHRD) Conference, Columbus, Ohio, February 22-26, 2006. Symposium. 42-2, pp. 893-898 (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. ED 492 775).
This paper chronicles the steps and methods and hypothetical results of quantitative and qualitative studies being conducted to develop a Generalized Expertise Measure (GEM). Content/face validity and internal consistency of the scores of the GEM are discussed, as well as directions to ensure that the psychometric properties of the scale are theoretically and empirically sound. For a review of the complete proceedings, see ED 491 487.
Gramza, Joyce & Limjoco, Victor. (March 24, 2007). Talent Vs Practice ScienCentral NEWS.
In this succinct but appealing commentary, Authors Gramza and Limjoco commence a brief discussion by wondering aloud if talent is something one is born with or can practice really make one perfect. They comment on research by Anders Ericsson and Paul Ward who state that their findings suggest that any novice can become an expert with enough of the right kind of training. To cite directly from their web page, "Ericsson and Ward say their findings suggest that any novice can become an expert with enough of the right kind of training. "It suggests that anyone with the right kind of practice will be able to dramatically improve their performance and it looks like they would be able to become experts with sufficient practice," Ericsson says. They suspect that what many people think of as "talent" may just be the motivation and commitment to continually challenge yourself."
Hamon, Paul. (November, 2006). A Book review of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, BPTrends.
Kinsella, K., & Velkoff, V. A.. (2001). An aging world: 2001 (U. S. Census Bureau, Series P95/01-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Kolb, B., & Whishaw, I. Q.. (2006). An introduction to brain and behavior (2nd ed.). New York: Worth.
Krampe, R. Th., & Ericsson, K. A.. (1996). Maintaining excellence: Deliberate practice and elite performance in younger and older pianists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 125, 331-359.
Lazarus, Richard S., & Lazarus, Bernice N.. (2006). Coping With Aging. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lehmann, A. C., & Ericsson K. A.. (1998a). The historical development of domains of expertise: Performance standards and innovations in music. In A. Steptoe (Ed.), Genius and the mind (pp. 67-94). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press
Lehmann, A. C., & Ericsson K. A.. (1998b). Preparation of a public piano performance: The relation between practice and performance. Musicae Scientiae, 2, 69-94.
Lehmann, A. C., & Ericsson K. A.. (1999). Research on expert performance and deliberate practice: Some implications for the education of amateur musicians and music students. Psychomusicology, 16, 40-58.
Martin, Brian. (March 8, 2007). How to Become an Expert
In another note, Martin comments on the 2006 publication of The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance. He mentions two of the handbook's chapters which he believes are especially relevant to arts disciplines. To cite him directly, "One is on expertise in history, with assessment of research on expertise as it relates to ten characteristics of history experts. The other is on expertise and professional writing."
Morley, John E., & van den Berg, Lucretia. (Eds.). (2000). Contemporary endocrinology (No.
In a nutshell, this edited volume presents data suggesting that the vast majority of older individuals remain in sufficient health to function independently, even well into the eighth decade of life.
Morrow, D. G., Leirer, V. O., & Altieri, P. A.. (1992). Aging, expertise, and narrative processing. Psychology and Aging, 7, 376-388.
Patel, V. L.., & Groen, G. J.. (1991). The general and specific nature of medical expertise: A critical look. In K. A. Ericsson & J. Smith (Eds.), Toward a general theory of expertise (pp. 93--125). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Richman, H. B., F. Gobet, J. J. Staszewski, and H. A. Simon. (1996). Perceptual and memory processes in the acquisition of expert performance: The EPAM model. In The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games, K. A. Ericsson, ed. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 167-187.
Ross, Philip, E.. (July 24, 2006). The Expert Mind Scientific American, 295(2), pp. 64-71.
Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness argue that there must be some other mechanism that enables experts to employ long-term memory as if it, too, were a scratch pad. Says Ericsson: "The mere demonstration that highly skilled players can play at almost their normal strength under blindfold conditions is almost impossible for chunking theory to explain because you have to know the position, then you have to explore it in your memory." Such manipulation involves changing the stored chunks, at least in some ways, a task that may be likened to reciting "Mary had a little lamb" backward. It can be done, but not easily, and certainly not without many false starts and errors. Yet grandmaster games played quickly and under blindfold conditions tend to be of surprisingly high quality.
Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L.. (1998). Successful aging. New York: Pantheon Books.
Here, Rowe and Kahn present the aging process as neither a period involving deterioration of the mind and body nor as a phase of life characterized by an attempt to minimize inevitable decline. Rather, they look at aging as a time for potential new direction involving intellectual development.
Salthouse, T. A.. (1984). Effects of age and skill in typing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 113, 345-371.
Salthouse, T. A.. (1989). Aging and skilled performance. In A. M. Colley & J. R. Beech (Eds.), Acquisition and performance of cognitive skills (pp. 247-263). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Salthouse, T. A.. (1990). Working memory as a processing resource in cognitive aging. Developmental Review, 10, 101-124.
Salthouse, T. A. (1991). Expertise as the circumvention of human processing limitations. In K. A. Ericsson & J. Smith (Eds.), Toward a general theory of expertise (pp. 286--300). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Salthouse, T. A., & Mitchell, D. R. D.. (1990). Effects of age and naturally occurring experience on spatial visualization performance. Developmental Psychology, 26, 845-854.
Schaie, K. W., & Willis, S. L.. (1996). Adult development and aging (4th ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
This book presents data suggesting that the vast majority of older individuals remain in sufficient health to function independently, even well into the eighth decade of life.
Schutlz, R., Musa, D., Staszewski, J., & Siegler, R. S.. (1994). The relationship between age and major league baseball performance: Implications for development. Psychology and Aging, 9, 274-286.
Theiler, Janine. (2003). A Comparative Study: Ericsson's theory of expertise and Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
In this comparative commentary, Theiler comments on an explorative study whereby Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory was compared to Anders Ericsson's Expertise Theory. Repeatedly, Gardner emphasizes a view of achievement which reflect the specific abilities approach as addressed above. Ericsson, however, vehemently opposes this view and consistently professes the importance of a domain-specific training and practice perspective. What follows is a delving into the reasoning of these theorists for adopting such contrasting lines of attack.
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Most recently revised on: Saturday, 21 July, 2007