The Social Psychology of Expertise: Case Studies in Research, Professional Domains, and Expert Roles

By Harald A. Mieg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
2

Where We Should Start:
Cognitive Economics

This chapter introduces a framework entitled cognitive economics. The core premise is the purely quantitative limitation of individual human cognition. There are cognitive and societal mechanisms to overcome this limitation. We see how experience-based expertise economizes information-storing capacity as well as processing time. Cognitive economics assumes that if there is a societal demand for cognitive expertise, there is also a market for it. For instance, professions are one form of regulating economic transactions related to human expertise. Thus, experts have to be seen in connection with a demand for expertise.


2.1 ECONOMIZING INFORMATION-STORING CAPACITY:
THE MAGICAL NUMBER SEVEN, PLUS OR MINUS TWO

In 1956, the Psychological Review published an article with the wonderful title: “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two. ” George A. Miller, the author, wrote that he had been obsessed by this integer, the number 7, for years. “It has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public journals, ” (p. 81). His discovery, if we speak in today's terms, was that the short-term memory has a loading capacity of around seven units, plus or minus two. The consequences of this single discovery were enormous.

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