The Psychology of Expertise: Cognitive Research and Empirical AI

By Robert R. Hoffman | Go to book overview

done applied work will no longer be suitable for positions as academics, because somehow the applied work will have spoiled them for an academic setting. We sometimes find people within one area of psychology suspicious of those who started off in another area, as though their expertise in the first area will hinder rather than help them in the new area in which they choose to do research. Examples abound, but the point is that the attribution of expertise in one domain may increase reluctance of people to make the same attribution in another domain.

The attribution problem can become an internal one as well as an external one. When people succeed in a given domain of endeavor, especially if the success is a creative one, they are reinforced in multiple ways for their success. In at least some cases, they will have worked hard for this success and will be eager to enjoy the fruits that it has borne. The problem is that the reinforcements they receive may render them reluctant to strive for success in a new project or a new area of endeavor. They may find themselves afraid to try for success in another domain, because they reason that now that they are near the top, the only way left for them is likely to be down. Their fear, then, is that by trying something new, they will expose themselves as has-beens. It is safer for them to rest on their laurels than to show themselves up as foolish or incompetent in a new project or domain.

Their fear is not an irrational one. By regression effects alone, it is reasonable to suppose that an unusual success in one domain is likely to be followed by somewhat lesser success in another domain, or even the same domain. For example, many of us are familiar with the now well-known "rookie-of-the-year" phenomenon, whereby the rookie of the year in baseball virtually never does as well his second year as he did his first. Such a phenomenon is consistent with the concept of statistical regression, and it applies in any domain. One need not take a statistics course to have an intuitive feeling for what will happen if one extends one's reach into new domains. This is not to say that even greater success is not possible. It is merely to say that some people will be afraid to keep trying. Thus, the attribution of expertise to a person in a given domain may hinder that person from developing expertise in a new domain or even from further developing expertise in the first domain.


Conclusion

We have argued that expertise has two aspects: a cognitive one and an attributional one. The two may, but need not, correspond. In fact, someone with very considerable skills may not be recognized as an expert, whereas someone else with much lesser skills may in fact bear this designation. We have proposed a cognitive model that includes a mechanism whereby expertise is acquired, and we have suggested that the acquisition of expertise entails costs as well as benefits. In order to develop our understanding of expertise more fully, we need to look at its cognitive and attributional sides, and also at its costs and benefits.

Acknowledgments . Preparation of this article was supported by Contract MDA90385K0305 from the Army Research Institute.


References

Berg C. A., & Sternberg R. J. ( 1985). Response to novelty: Continuity versus discontinuity in the developmental course of intelligence. In H. W. Reese & L. P. Lipsitt (Eds.), Advances in Child development and behavior (Vol. 19, pp. 2-47). New York: Academic Press.

Cattell R. B. ( 1971). Abilities: Their structure, growth, and action. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Charness N. ( 1979). Components of skill in bridge. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 33, 1-16.

Charness N. ( 1981). Search in chess: Age and skill differences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 7, 467-476.

Chase W. G., & Simon H. A. ( 1973). Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology, 4, 55-81.

Chi M. T. H., Glaser R., & Farr M. J. (Eds.). ( 1989). The nature of expertise. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Chi M. T. H., Glaser R., & Rees E. ( 1982). Expertise in problem solving. In R. J. Sternberg

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