The Expert Mind

There’s a nice article in Scientific American entitled “The Expert Mind: Studies of the mental processes of chess grandmasters have revealed clues to how people become experts in other fields as well.” What struck me was the excerpt below which seems to be grist for the connectionist mill in that the expert is not confronted with absolute novelty, unlike the weaker player that inevitably searches a “storehouse” of options. The expert through experience has a relational memory thereby not only coming up with a resolution quicker but by-passing a whole swarth of less salient options. This also brings to mind the Heidegger-Dreyfus line of our well-honed tacit expertise as opposed to explicit inferential capacity.  


Recent research has shown that de Groot’s findings reflected in part the nature of his chosen test positions. A position in which extensive, accurate calculation is critical will allow the grandmasters to show their stuff, as it were, and they will then search more deeply along the branching tree of possible moves than the amateur can hope to do. So, too, experienced physicists may on occasion examine more possibilities than physics students do. Yet in both cases, the expert relies not so much on an intrinsically stronger power of analysis as on a store of structured knowledge. When confronted with a difficult position, a weaker player may calculate for half an hour, often looking many moves ahead, yet miss the right continuation, whereas a grandmaster sees the move immediately, without consciously analyzing anything at all.