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.
The Science of Expertise: Behavioral, Neural, and Genetic Approaches to Complex Skill will
include chapters representing diverse perspectives on expertise. The view that expertise is largely—or
even entirely—a product of environmental factors has held sway in cognitive psychology for nearly half
a century. Environmental factors do indeed play an important role in expertise. Training history is a
major predictor of success in complex domains. At the same time, recent research has made it equally
clear that there is more to the story. Genetic factors contribute substantially to variation across people
not only in performance on complex tasks such as playing music, but also in the willingness to engage in
training. Other research is shedding light on the neural underpinnings of expertise.
Expertise is a puzzle with many pieces. The Science of Expertise will bring together chapters by internationally-recognized scholars that will provide up-to-date reviews on what some of these pieces are, and how they fit together to explain high-level skill in complex domains.
David Z. Hambrick
is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University. He is the
author of over 60 scientific articles and chapters, and an associate editor of the Journal of Experimental
Psychology: General. He received his Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2000, and is a
Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Dr. Hambrick has written for The New York Times,
Slate, and Scientific American.
is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology and Social Science at Edith Cowan
University (Australia). In 2015, he was lead editor for a special issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
on expertise. He has published widely in top journals such as Human Brain Mapping, Intelligence,
Developmental Psychology, Current Directions in Psychological Science, and Cognitive Science. He
received his Ph.D. from the University of Nottingham in 2003.
is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case
Western Reserve University. She has published her work in Psychological Science, Perspectives on
Psychological Science, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, among other top journals. She received her Ph.D.
from Princeton University in 2014, and was the recipient of Doctoral Dissertation Research award from
the National Science Foundation. Her 2014 article “The Relationship Between Deliberate Practice and
Performance in Games, Music, Sports, Education, and Professions: A Meta-Analysis” was one of the 5
most downloaded Psychological Science articles in 2014.