Featured Book
The Science of Expertise:
Behavioral, Neural, and Genetic Approaches to Complex Skill

        Who rises to the top in music, sports, games, business, science, and other complex domains? This is a question that parents, teachers, coaches, talent scouts, and search committees all seek to answer—and one of enduring fascination to psychologists. Indeed, the question of whether experts are “born” or “made” is the subject of what is arguably psychology’s oldest debate. Particularly in the past decade, there has been an explosion of scientific interest in this issue. Research on expertise has also captured the popular imagination through books such as Geoff Colvin’s Talent is Overrated and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly 200 weeks.

        Offering the broadest review of psychological perspectives on human expertise to date, this volume covers behavioral, computational, neural, and genetic approaches to understanding complex skill. The chapters show how performance in music, the arts, sports, games, medicine, and other domains reflects basic traits such as personality and intelligence, as well as knowledge and skills acquired through training. In doing so, this book moves the field of expertise beyond the duality of "nature vs. nurture" toward an integrative understanding of complex skill.

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Get to know the research team.
What do we do?

We study the origins of skill in domains such as music, science, chess, and sports.

Welcome to the Expertise Lab at Michigan State University.

Select Publications

Sala et al. (2017)

Checking the “Academic Selection” Argument. Chess Players Outperform Non-Chess Players in Cognitive Skills Related to Intelligence: A Meta-Analysis

Burgoyne et al. (2016)

The Relationship between Cognitive Ability and Chess Skill: A Comprehensive Meta-Analysis

Macnamara et al. (2016)

The Relationship Between Deliberate Practice and Performance in Sports: A Meta-Analysis
Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Hambrick et al. (2016)

Beyond Born Versus Made: A New Look at Expertise
Psychology of Learning and Motivation.

Macnamara et al. (2016)

How Important is Deliberate Practice? Reply to Ericsson (2016)
Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Hambrick & Hoffman (2016)

Expertise: A second look.
IEEE Intelligent Systems.

Ullén et al. (2015)

Rethinking Expertise: A Multifactorial Gene–Environment Interaction Model of Expert Performance
Psychological Bulletin.

Hambrick et al. (2014)

Deliberate Practice: is that all it takes to become an Expert?

Hambrick et al. (2014)

The Genetics of Music Accomplishment: Evidence for Gene–Environment Correlation and Interaction
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Hambrick et al. (2014)

Accounting for Expert Performance: The Devil is in the Details

Hambrick et al. (2014)

Facing Facts about Deliberate Practice
Frontiers in Psychology.

Macnamara et al. (2014)

Deliberate Practice and Performance in Music, Games, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis
Psychological Science.

Hambrick et al. (2012)

A Test of the Circumvention-of-Limits Hypothesis in Scientific Problem Solving: The Case of Geological Bedrock Mapping
Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Hambrick & Meinz (2011)

Limits on the Predictive Power of Domain-Specific Experience and Knowledge in Skilled Performance
Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Meinz & Hambrick (2010)

Deliberate Practice Is Necessary but Not Sufficient to Explain Individual Differences in Piano Sight-Reading Skill: The Role of Working Memory Capacity
Psychological Science.

In The News
Scientific American Zach Hambrick Fredrick Ullen Miriam Mosing
September 20, 2016

Is Innate Talent a Myth?

It’s appealing to think that “all it takes is a lot of practice,” but the factors behind elite performance are more complicated than that.

New York Times Zach Hambrick Expertise Alex Burgoyne
November 19, 2011

Sorry, Strivers; Talent Matters

How do people acquire high levels of skill in science, business, music, the arts and sports? This has long been a topic of intense debate in psychology.

Huffington Post Zach Hambrick Expertise
March 13, 2012

Are Experts Born or Made?

Why do some people learn complex skills with apparent ease, and ultimately reach expert levels of performance, while others struggle...

Psychology Today Zach Hambrick Expertise
September 4, 2014

The Right Stuff

Many researchers believe the focus on practice—as essential as it is—has overshadowed other key factors behind expertise and performance.

May 16, 2016

The Origins of Exceptional Performance in the Arts

A talk by Zach Hambrick at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden, on the multivariate perspective on expertise.

Revisiting the Role of the Fusiform Face Area in Expertise

Article by Dr. Merim Bilalić
Abstract: The fusiform face area (FFA) is considered to be a highly specialized brain module because of its central importance for face perception. However, many researchers claim that the FFA is a general visual expertise module that distinguishes between individual examples within a single category. Here, I circumvent the shortcomings of some previous studies on the FFA controversy by using chess stimuli, which do not visually resemble faces, together with more sensitive methods of analysis such as multivariate pattern analysis. (Read more)

Finding the Next Einstein

Dr. Jonathan Wai - Case Western Reserve University

"I hope to share with you what I think are important research findings surrounding the search for great intellectual and creative talent."

September 28, 2016

Practice Doesn't Make Perfect

“One of the criticisms people direct at us is that we’re killing people’s dreams,” Hambrick says. “But I think in fact it’s the contrary: the more we can know about the origins of expertise, including training but everything else, the more we can help people be their best selves.”
Article by Maria Konnikova
Illustration by Wren McDonald