Expert intuition

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© Cambridge University Press 2014. Expert Intuition Physicians’ intuitions reveal diseases and guide treatments. Athletes’ intuitions allow them to outmaneuver highly trained competitors. Emergency responders’ intuitions help contain unpredictable wildfires and violent criminals. Across these examples and many others, research shows that the intuitions of verifiable expert performers tend to be highly accurate, well calibrated, and powerful. In the last 50 years, superior and reproducible expert performance has been observed in many domains (e.g., chess, medicine, piloting, sport, acting, ballet, driving, software design, mathematics, memory, bridge, history, science, writing, policing, composing, and many others; Ericsson, Charness, Feltovich, & Hoffman, 2006; Ericsson, Prietula, & Cokely, 2007). To a great extent, the superior judgment and decision making of expert performers follows from differences in their intuitions, which can be refined and deliberated on as needed during decision making (e.g., in non-routine situations). Research further shows the superior intuitions of the expert performers are alwaysdeveloped via extensive deliberate practice, with the most elite expert performers requiring at least 10 years or roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice (Chase & Simon, 1973; Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993). However, not all practice is the same and experience alone does not guarantee expert performance. Some experts simply don’t show superior and reproducible performance in essential representative tasks (e.g., wine tasters, financial analysts, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, physicians, musicians, and others). Failure to achieve expert performance typically reflects some combination of insufficient deliberate practice, inefficient or unreliable feedback, or limits of neurology and physiology. Those experts who do not show expert performance have been found to have intuitions that are poorly calibrated, unreliable, and may be biased by irrelevant factors. For example, expert philosophers’ intuitions are sometimes biased by heritable personality traits.

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Rational Intuition: Philosophical Roots, Scientific Investigations