It Takes More Than Practice and Experience to Become a Chess Master: Evidence from a Child Prodigy and Adult Chess Players
Yu-Hsuan A. Chang & David M. Lane
Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice and Chase and Simon’s recognition-action theory both hold that the key to reaching master level performances in chess is to engage in at least 10 years or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Moreover, Ericsson claims that the primary source of individual differences in chess skill is deliberate practice time. Two studies were conducted to investigate whether deliberate practice or other chess-related experience is sufficient to explain individual differences in chess expertise and to investigate other factors that may contribute to chess expertise. Study 1 investigated the amount of time a young and exceptional chess player, CS, had studied alone and engaged in other chess-related experiences. CS spent little time studying alone and little time engaging in other chess-related experiences. Nonetheless, she achieved an exceptional chess level. CS’s achievement is difficult to reconcile with the 10 years or 10,000 hours rule. Finally, CS performed exceptionally well on a test of visual short-term memory. Study 2 investigated factors contributing to the chess ratings of 77 adult chess players. Time spent studying alone and time spent engaging in other chess-related activities were strongly related to chess skill. However, contrary to the theory of deliberate practice, other factors including domain-general fluid intelligence, domain-specific fluid intelligence, and domain-specific crystallized intelligence all contributed substantially to the prediction of chess ratings even after controlling for practice and other chess-related activities. These findings support the view that spending time studying alone and playing chess is necessary but not sufficient for achieving a very high level of chess performance.
Mackenzie A. Sunday & Isabel Gauthier
We present an argument against Young & Burton’s recently proposed idea that we should be considered experts only with familiar face identities. We argue that while studying how familiar and unfamiliar face recognition differ is important, findings from this line of research do not conflict with claims of expertise with unfamiliar face identities. Here we outline several points to support the relevance of expertise to the processing of unfamiliar face identity, including discussions of how experience influences unfamiliar face recognition and how an individual differences approach to face recognition can offer critical insight into sources of variability that would be missed with work focused only on comparing familiar and unfamiliar face recognition.
Understanding How Working Memory Capacity and Domain-Specific Knowledge Influence Memory Performance
Michael E. Hahn & Ronald T. Kellogg
The relationship of working memory and domain knowledge to memory performance was investigated in this study. Young adults (N = 290) completed a demographic questionnaire and the Baseball Knowledge Test via an online platform. A subsample (N = 70) was selected to undergo further testing in a laboratory setting. Participants viewed two half-innings from recorded Major League Baseball games and provided verbal recollections. During one recollection, participants performed a concurrent task designed to reduce working memory resources. Testing sessions concluded with the administration of two complex working memory span tasks. Analyses indicated that domain knowledge and working memory predicted memory performance under normal and cognitive load conditions, and that these variables had an additive effect. In addition, our manipulation of working memory load impaired performance regardless of level of domain knowledge. Together, our findings suggest that domain knowledge and working memory independently influence memory performance.
Jonathan Wai 1 & Kaja Perina 2
What qualities are important in the development of journalism expertise? And how can the study of elite journalists shed light on our understanding of expertise more broadly? This study examined a sample of 1,979 employees of The New York Times (NYT) and The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), arguably two of the most influential papers in the U.S. and the world. Almost half of the people who reach the pinnacle of the journalism profession attended an elite school and were likely in the top 1% of cognitive ability. This means top 1% people are overrepresented among the NYT and WSJ mastheads by a factor of about 50. Placed in the context of other elite occupations, this provides evidence for the influence of the cognitive elite across a wide variety of expertise, including domains that provide prestige and influence rather than monetary rewards. Roughly 20% attended an Ivy League school. Writers were drawn from higher-ranking schools, reflecting higher cognitive ability than demonstrated by editors’ schools. Almost all elite journalists graduated from college, and the majority did not major in journalism (roughly 80% of typical journalists graduate from college). Only a handful of select schools feed the mastheads of the NYT and the WSJ, suggesting the importance of networks. Data on typical journalists were analyzed to provide characteristics of editors and reporters/correspondents. This approach shows that cognitive ability should be accounted for in more comprehensive theoretical models of expertise and that deliberate practice cannot be the full explanation of success. It also provides a unique test of the generality of expertise models into more nontraditional expertise domains such as journalism and other occupations and ultimately may shed light on the extent to which general cognitive ability, the role of selective institutions, opportunity, and other factors may play in expertise development broadly.
Can Video-based Perceptual-cognitive Tests Differentiate Between Skill Level, Player Position, and Experience in Elite Australian Football?
Ray Breed 1, Olivia Mills 2, & Michael Spittle 3
The aim of this exploratory study was to investigate if there were differences in perceptual-cognitive skills of sub-groups within an elite (full-time professional) Australian football (AF) team. Players completed a video-based test, measuring response accuracy, consisting of three sub-tests (pattern recall, ruck cue utilization, and decision-making with the ball) using clips from 2010 Australian Football League (AFL) matches. Forty-six males (M age = 22.0, SD = 3.4 years) were stratified in three ways for analysis: a) highly skilled and skilled decision-making groups, based on seven coaches’ ratings of decision-making skill; b) midfield and key position players; and, c) experienced and inexperienced players, based on the number of AFL games they have played (e.g., < 25 or 25+). No significant difference was found between the highly skilled and the skilled group for total test score (p = 0.04). The highly skilled group did, however, perform significantly better than the skilled group (p = 0.01) for the decision-making with the ball sub-test, but not for the pattern recall and ruck cue utilization sub-tests. No significant differences were found between the midfield and key position players, or between the experienced and inexperienced players. It appears that the more complex and realistic a video-based task is, the more likely perceptual-cognitive differences will be found within elite AF players. The study compared players at the elite (full-time professional) level, rather than comparing expert and novice participants, and found some perceptual differences between highly skilled and less skilled players.
Martyn Rothwell, Keith Davids, & Joseph Stone
The role of task constraints manipulation in pedagogical practice has received considerable attention in recent years, although there has been little focus on the role of socio-cultural constraints on an athlete's development to elite performance. Here, we aim to integrate ideas from a range of scientific sub-disciplines to consider why certain behaviors and cultures (socio-cultural constraints) may exist in sport performance and coaching. Using recent conceptualizations of affordances in ecological dynamics, we explore how socio-cultural constraints may influence an athlete's development and relationship with a performance context. We also highlight how workplace practices eminating from the industrialization of the nineteenth century in countries such as the UK may have influenced coaching practice and organizational behaviors from that time on. In particular, features such as strict work regimes and rigid role specification may have reduced personal autonomy, de-skilled performers, and induced a “body as machine” philosophy within sporting organizations. These traits could be considered counter to expert performance in sports where creativity and adaptive decision-making are important skills for athletes to possess. We propose that ecological dynamics is a theoretical framework that enhances the understanding of the influential nature of socio-cultural constraints on the development of athlete performance. Key ideas suggest that sport pedagogists and practitioners could develop methodologies which help design practice landscapes rich in information to encourage athlete autonomy to search for relevant affordances which invite functionally relevant actions for competitive performance with physical, psychological, emotional, and social dimensions. Future research is needed to explore a range of sports in order to identify and clarify the relationship between socio-cultural constraints and expertise acquisition.