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Headlines for Wednesday:

  1. Expertise: more than meets the eye (246 words)


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1. Expertise: more than meets the eye: 11:35

We can't help but be amazed by experts' performances. Brilliant concert pianists, chess grandmasters... there must be *something* about them that sets them apart from us ordinary folks. But sometimes, an incredible feat of genius is more than what it seems—or less!

Here is an anecdote taken from a research paper on expert levels of performance (Ericsson, 1998) about the Italian violinist, Paganini:

According to my father's account, during one of his concerts Paganini experienced a problem—one of the strings on his violin broke; after a brief pause, he continued playing the music on the remaining string. A little later another string broke but he still resumed playing. Yet another strong broke, and Paganini finished playing the concert on a single string while producing the most beautiful music. Such a demonstration of an immediate unexpected reorganization of one's music performance is mind-boggling.

Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it? To be able to adapt so quickly to changing circumstances and still perform to the highest standards despite such challenges—*surely* there must be some kind of secret gift. How can practice alone account for that?

If you read the paper, you'll find about that and more in this deep and insightful study into high levels of performance. In the meantime, think of possible explanations—and then check back on Saturday (June 23) for the spoilers!

Ericksson, K. A. (1998) "The scientific study of expert levels of performnance: general implications for optimal learning and creativity." High Ability Studies, 9(1), pp75—100


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