The differences between expert and novice performance cannot be explained by innate differences in basic speed and capacity. They are attributable primarily to complex, highly specialized mechanisms that allow experts to perform at superior levels in representative domain-specific tasks.

In fact, the only basic innate difference that has been conclusively shown to differentiate expert and novices is physical size and height in sports (Ericsson, 1996). For instance, the best basketball players tend to be taller than average and the best gymnasts tend to be shorter than average. 

The complex mechanisms and representations mediating expert performance are directly applicable to our understanding of problem solving. The difference between the performance of experts and novices on representative domain-specific tasks is attributable to the quality of complex mediating mechanisms, such as planning, anticipation, and reasoning. Hence, to improve problem-solving ability in a given domain, it is necessary to develop and refine domain-specific mechanisms and representations

Excerpt from Davidson, J., & Sternberg, R. (Eds.). (2003). The Psychology of Problem Solving. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511615771


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