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Experts are not encyclopedias but skilled problem perceivers

Posted by John_Skoyles on 22 Oct 2011 at 17:09 GMT

The questions asked of experts are the kind that no expert should or could be expected to know except if they had recently read the particular relevant literature. These questions are hidden in Supporting Information which is wrong because they are critical to understanding the paper (this would not have added much to its 5,000 words). Reading them shows the questions asked of experts are encyclopedia type questions that concern noncore knowledge. Few experts would seek to know off hand such information since it is labile to change and if needed better known by checking up on an external information source. An expert knows how to find out such information out rather than personally hold it in their long-term memories.

What defines an expert--at least in the tradition of Ericsson and the need for ten years of deliberate study-- is the ability to ask the right questions, perceive otherwise overlooked problems, and have insights that enable solutions to be quickly found. This requires the acquisition of much knowledge but in a form that enables active problem perception not turning the brain into a encyclopedia.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Experts are not encyclopedias but skilled problem perceivers

MarkBurgman replied to John_Skoyles on 23 Oct 2011 at 22:53 GMT

The questions were deliberately tailored so that each set of experts was given questions that were from their relevant domain. The questions simulate the kinds of questions that are routinely put to experts when they make predictions or assess risks, when it's not possible to check external sources because the result lies in the future or the data are simply unavailable. The validity of the questions was tested by asking the experts themselves if they were fairly representative of the kinds of things they are asked to do. This study does not challenge the notion that expert knowledge is valuable. It does not compare experts and non-experts. Rather, among people with a credible claim of expertise, status is a poor guide to performance on questions about facts that can't be gleaned from external sources.

No competing interests declared.