Robin Hogarth on Expertise

expertiseimagesRobin Hogarth looks at expertise along with intuition.

Findings on Expertise

A. Expertise is limited to specific domains acquired through considerable experience.

B. Outstanding performance in any domain takes years of dedication usually including demanding regimes of deliberate practice benefiting from good teachers. It also seems to be necessary to have many hours of experience in what might be considered an unstructured manner. Learning from experience is key. We all develop intuitive abilities, but once skills have been over learned and made automatic–intuitive–self insight is difficult, and a third-party perspective can be helpful. True experts tend to restructure their performance with experience and acquire new methods and skills that others do not.

C. Experts are not much better in predicting the future than novices though this may be to an extent due to the uncertain and even random environments some of them work in.  Hogarth also sees a social phenomenon at work here. He believes that people seek certainties in life and that experts are expected to provide these. Since people expect experts to provide accurate predictions, experts want to meet these expectations so they do their best to explain away all their mistakes and maintain the illusion that they are correct.

D. Experts and novices process information differently. Experts tend to make more use of their well-educated intuitions to counteract limitations in short-term memory.  Novices tend to identify a specific goal and then using much analytic thinking work backward through the details toward a solution. Experts tend to take in the details of the problems they face, and then by recognizing patterns and similarities create a general framework that fits the data that allows them to explore possible solutions. Experts learn what patterns to expect in different situations, and their diagnostic  activities involves comparisons with expectations.  Do the data match or is something missing?  Expertise involves the encoding of intuitive patterns and the more expert a person becomes, the more patterns available in memory.

Hogarth refers to Gary Klein’s model of recognition primed decision making.  According to this model, experts are able to act quickly because they quickly recognize the kind of situation they face, and specifically, whether the situation differs from what they expected to find. This heuristic is also called “take the first.”  Experience and perception are important in Klein’s model with the key idea being that on the basis of past experience people develop intuitive expectations that can be either confirmed or proved wrong.

Nine month old babies though not considered experts in the domain of understanding gravity, do have excellent intuitive expectations.  Experiments have shown their surprised looks when the experimenter messes with the appearance of normal gravity. This might be considered recognition primed decision making.

intuimagesIntuition as Expertise

Hogarth has suggested that intuition can be thought of as a form of expertise, but there are both similarities and differences.  Both are acquired largely through experience and thus are domain specific.  We all forget this sometimes. Trusting your intuition in an area where you have no experience is not a good idea.  Experts also have been known to believe that they have become experts in everything based on the admiration that they have received in their narrow domain.

The differences may be more instructional:

  1. Expertise most often requires the explicit use of conscious analytical thinking.
  2. Although it makes sense to talk about varying levels of expertise, it probably does not make sense to talk about levels of intuition. Reyna does point Development Stages of Intuition and Analysis
  3. Intuition and expertise are validated differently.  Typically, “no news is good news” is sufficient validation for us to rely on intuition. Expertise is validated more formally and objectively with both experience and measurement against certain established criteria.
  4. Another difference is that people develop intuitions to handle problems in many different domains while expertise is concentrated in specific domains. We may develop intuitions that guide us through a variety of social situations as well as intuitions that help us drive an automobile, but we are not likely to be experts in any of these domains.

I should note that Hogarth’s basic ideas on expertise and intuition are at least a decade old, but that he has shown considerable interest in newly expressed ideas such as those discussed in Intuition in J/DM   and Intuition’s four parts. These do not undermine his ideas.


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  1. Pingback: Information Security Experts | Judgment and Decision Making

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