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The question of expertise—its nature, scope, and application—is one of the most urgent issues in the modern world. The recognition of expertise as an important issue and the analyses of its problems are firmly embedded in the Western tradition. Plato's discussions of techné and of the difference between philosophy and sophistry, for instance, are best characterized as discussions of expertise. "When Socrates seeks moral knowledge," Julia Annas writes, "it is only to be expected that this will be seen on the model of practical expertise, since this is the model for knowledge in general" (Annas 2001, p. 245).

In its modern usage, the word expert derives from the Latin expertus, the past participle of experiri, "to try"; an expert is one who has been tested and become skilled or knowledgeable through experience. Although this definition seems straightforward, in the real world experts are not always easy to identify or deal with. Although they are a familiar and indispensable element of the contemporary world, experts are also the object of widespread controversy and hostility; experts are capable of generating both trust and skepticism.

Reliance on Experts

In practical matters modern life is permeated by experts and expertise, a situation that is also central to scientific disciplines. Contemporary scientific research depends on evidence being generated, integrated, disseminated, evaluated, and reviewed by overlapping networks of investigators (Hardwig 1985). Nonscientific professions also are constituted by the need to reproduce, maintain, and supervise expertise. The defining character of both the public and private spheres thus is determined largely by the kinds of experts who are deferred to (including self-professed experts, "hired gun" experts, and faux experts), the circumstances in which such deference occurs, and the reasons that can be provided to justify that deference.

Experts shape not only professional disciplines but also everyday life. Citizens routinely defer to experts not only in issues involving a scientific-technological dimension but in "all sorts of common decisions" about anything and everything (Walton 1997, p. 24). The extent of routine deference to experts is staggering. Politicians, judges, businesspersons, and ordinary citizens rely on experts. Many activities once left as a matter of nature or common sense to clan, community, or culture, such as childbearing and child rearing, have become the province of experts (Hulbert 2004). As the cultural critic Neil Postman notes: "[E]xperts claim dominion not only over technical matters, but also over social, psychological, and moral affairs. There is no aspect of human relations that has not been technicalized and therefore relegated to the control of experts" (Postman 1993, p. 87).

Contemporary reliance on experts has a historical dimension. Around the beginning of the twentieth century demographic changes such as the massive influx of immigrants, the concomitant weakening of the authority of traditional cultural practices, and the accompanying fascination with being "modern" helped foster the view that scientific approaches could make many human activities previously governed by culture, community, and religion more effective and efficient. Meanwhile, new technologies arose whose principles could not be mastered by nonexperts and thus had to be delegated to specialists. Inevitably, with that new reliance on experts controversies arose over who was a genuine expert, how an expert was trained and legitimated, and the objectivity of certain fields of expertise. Thus, whereas the problem of expertise is as old as the ancient quarrel between philosophy and sophistry, the permeation by and dependence of modern life on expertise has made this question increasingly important.

Domains of Expertise

A brief look at the ways in which controversies have arisen in different domains can help illuminate different aspects of the issue of expertise.

GOVERNMENT. Democracy depends not only on an educated citizenry but also on educated decision making. Most countries attempt to establish this by incorporating experts into government operations through agencies, regulatory and review panels, committees, and advisory capacities. From the governmental perspective the use of expertise generally implies a distinction between the social and technical aspects of policy and its instruments: Although decisions about the social aspects are the province of elected representatives of the public, decisions about the technical aspects are relegated to experts. However, this separation is never clean because technical aspects are seldom neutral with respect to social ones. The sometimes murky boundary between the social and technical aspects of policy periodically leads to controversies over the governmental selection of experts and the advice they provide, along with attempts to reduce the influence of experts on policy.

A dramatic and instructive episode was the 1954 hearing on the scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer's (1904–1967) security clearance (Thorpe 2002). In his role as chairman of the General Advisory Committee (GAC), which was charged with advising the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) "on scientific and technical matters," Oppenheimer had opposed the development of the "Super," an early impractical attempt to build a hydrogen bomb. Oppenheimer was not the only GAC member to oppose it, but his influence galvanized adversaries to seek his removal from a position in which he could influence the government, and his clearance was suspended.

At the end of a four-week hearing AEC counsel Roger Robb said bluntly to Oppenheimer, "You of course don't conceive yourself to be an expert in war, do you, or military matters?" No, was the reply. Then, continued Robb, did you not perhaps go "beyond the scope of your proper function as a scientist in undertaking to counsel in matters of military strategy and tactics?" Would this not, Robb added, be as absurd as deeming John Ericsson to be qualified in naval strategy merely because he had designed the Monitor? Robb was challenging not only Oppenheimer's authority to address social issues such as military policy but in effect that of any scientist.

That challenge went unanswered and highlights the contentious nature of the border between technical and social issues as well as the discretionary power and potential ideological biases involved both in the selection of experts and in the advice they offer. Although controversies over such issues arise in almost every administration, the handling of experts and expertise by the government became a salient campaign issue in the U.S. presidential election of 2004. Organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists hosted websites that documented instances in which the Bush administration was declared guilty of abusing, distorting, and suppressing the advice of experts on issues ranging from abortion to stem cell research.

MEDIA. The use of experts in the media entails a different set of issues. The media not only rely heavily on experts for information but also frequently quote or interview them in the process of conveying content to the public. The experts who gain "standing" thus acquire an influential role in shaping public perception about what information is authoritative and in generating, perpetuating, and even resolving controversies. Media-designated experts, however, often are chosen to a large extent because of factors such as accessibility, skill at communicating, charisma, and even the particular positions they have adopted. The result is that these experts are not necessarily the ones who would be recognized by most or even many professionals of the field in question; the positions they advocate also may not be shared generally.

Moreover, the qualities required to gain standing vary from medium to medium: The kind of person cited as an expert in the print media differs from the kind who appears on television. A major difference between media-appointed and other kinds of experts is a sharply diminished incentive to define and rigorously police the difference between real experts and charlatans. The media often are encouraged to promote "balanced" voices, particularly colorful and charismatic ones, that advocate positions outside the mainstream. As a result individuals who have questionable credentials, who are being promoted by those with certain agendas, or whose conduct or methodology is not generally representative of those in their professions can be anointed experts.

A classic illustrative episode is Bailey Willis's role in the controversy over the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Willis had worked for the U.S. Geological Survey from 1898 to 1916 and then became a professor of geology at Stanford University, retiring as an emeritus professor in 1922. In the early 1930s he joined a fierce controversy about the Golden Gate Bridge, whose construction was in progress, when he claimed that the collapse of the bridge was inevitable because the bedrock of the south tier was too soft. The bridge had been opposed strongly by the local ferry company, the shipping industry, and landowners afraid of declining property values and increasing tourism. To those groups Willis was a godsend, and they used him as a point person. He was flamboyant and quotable, preached a doomsday scenario, and was credentialed as a professor and ex-employee of the U.S. Geological Survey. It thus is not surprising that he was cited regularly as an authority on the front pages of newspapers. To his scientific colleagues, however, Willis's methodology and behavior were abominable: His arguments were easy to refute, he was shown to have misread maps, and he refused to inspect the rocks firsthand. To those colleagues his credentials did not matter. Expertise requires possession of the appropriate skill, Willis lacked that skill, and any claim made for his having it was fraudulent.

Similar complaints about media-designated experts frequently surface in more recent controversies involving a scientific-technological dimension, such as those over breast implants, the dangers of chemical toxins, and the health effects of low levels of radiation. These episodes highlight the question of whether it is possible to describe and recognize what is involved in the "intuitive," first-person possession of expertise.

LAW. In the modern world controversial social issues often wind up in the law courts, which are forced to impose a cease-fire on terms that are frequently tentative, vague, imperfect, and open to revision. Nevertheless, these flawed practical resolutions often contain signposts indicating why it is so difficult to integrate conceptual and practical issues, a situation in which the use of experts is no exception (Golan 2004, Feigman 2004, Foster and Huber 1997).

Experts play a pivotal role in the courtroom, where their use turns on the distinction between evidence and opinion; nevertheless, what constitutes an expert in science and in law "is as far apart as day and night" (Angell 1996, p. 116). The introduction of expert testimony by the prosecution tends to increase conviction rates (Brekke and Borgida 1988, Kovera, Levy, Borgida, and Penrod 1994), whereas testimony from a defense expert tends to lessen the likelihood of a conviction (Hosch 1980, Schuller and Hastings 1996) even though jurors have proved themselves incapable of understanding the implications of much scientific testimony (Selinger 2003).

Tal Golan (2004), for instance, traces controversies involving the use of experts in court back to a late eighteenth-century case concerning the causes of the decline of the harbor in Wells, England, in which each party hired expert witnesses. The result was a much wider use of scientists as expert witnesses in the courtroom, and this paved the way to abuses. By the mid-nineteenth century Attorney General Sir Alexander Cockburn was expressing a widely held view, at a poisoning trial in 1856, when he remarked, "I abhor the traffic in testimony to which I regret to say men of science sometimes permit themselves to condescend."

Whereas poisoning trials were a common forum for clashes between scientific experts, twentieth-century medical technologies have expanded the opportunities for scientific expert testimony vastly not only in the areas mentioned here but also in lie detector evidence, insanity defenses, and DNA analysis. The use of expert witnesses in the courtroom has burgeoned, along with the burden placed on the legal system. One early decision, Frye v. U.S. (1923), stated that expert testimony must assist the jury in its decision making, that the testimony must be based on scientific principles that are accepted generally in the field, and that an expert witness must be suitably qualified. However, the rules established by Frye were found to be too broad, and the continuing legal controversy culminated in a landmark and still controversial 1993 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.

The Daubert decision sought a practical solution to these difficulties, attempting to take the role of assessing scientific testimony out of the hands of juries and putting judges in the role of gatekeepers for the admissibility of scientific evidence in federal courts. It also attempted to lay out guidelines of reliability and relevance for judges in evaluating technical data possibly beyond their expertise for courtroom use. Questions about its effectiveness, however, remain.

Although informed by both the philosophy of science (particularly the work of the philosophers Karl Popper [1902–1994] and Carl Hempel [1905–1997]) and the sociology of science, the Daubert decision has had a tendency to produce expensive and time-consuming pretrial hearings that have been viewed as discouraging the kind of sound gatekeeping that the decision was intended to establish. It has been elaborated by two further cases, General Electric v. Joiner (1997) and Kumho Tire v. Carmichael (1999), and the issue continues to generate much discussion and writing.

The continuing controversy over expertise in the courtroom has served to highlight in particular the question of how to integrate the possessors of scientific expertise with the needs of a particular arena, such as the courtroom, in which it is required.

Interdisciplinary Structure

Each of these controversies involving the use of experts in government, media, and the law poses a different set of questions involving expertise that call for conceptual clarification. Those questions include the following: How does one become an expert? Can experts be recognized by nonexperts? Is it possible for a consumer of expertise to detect the presence of hidden agendas, biased or tainted testimony, and incompetence in expert testimony? Is it possible to train experts in such a way that these contested problems do not arise? The inability to answer such questions definitively, especially in high-profile controversies, has contributed to a general skepticism regarding experts and to doubts about whether it is possible to achieve a pragmatic, effective, and permanent solution to the problem of expertise.

An essential first step would be greater conceptual clarification of the problem. Recent technological issues highlight the need for such clarity: Debates about the value of shifting expertise away from individual and credentialed content experts to a community of self-policing but not necessarily credentialed contributors have plagued Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia whose entries can be altered by essentially anyone who desires to change them; debates about reports occurring on blogs have brought traditional reporting to the threshold of a crisis; and debates about the collaborative categorization of information through the use of simple tags in social software have raised powerful questions concerning who has the right to manage data. (Social software designates software that is designed to support one or more of the following goals: (1) support conversational interactions between individuals or groups, (2) supports social feedback (i.e. rating of goods and services to create digital reputation), and (3) support and manage social networks (i.e., programs such as Friendster which allow you to network with people who you do not know, but who are acquainted with people you do know.)

No single key can unlock the problem of expertise all at once. Its analysis requires crossing several disciplinary boundaries: philosophical, sociological, political, and even rhetorical. Philosophically, the question of expertise broaches the philosophy of mind—of what it means to know something and to be someone capable of acquiring knowledge—and is inextricably interwoven with issues of embodiment, apprenticeship, and artificial intelligence, among others. However, expertise has a social character as well inasmuch as the question of who is an expert is not a matter of training or skill alone but of definition and recognition. Politically, the authority conferred on experts collides with participatory democracy, with the democratic and antielitist urge to accord equality to all citizens. As media experts reveal, who "counts as" an expert often depends on rhetorical ability. Thus, "expertise" rarely is addressed comprehensively from more than one perspective at a time. It lurks, implicitly and usually uncritically, beneath discussions of concepts such as authority, colonization, power, skill, and even science. Nevertheless, anything short of a full interdisciplinary analysis runs the risk of producing a naive and overly simplistic account.

The practical and the conceptual problems of expertise are clearly related, and it is hard to imagine that a better, more synoptic understanding of expertise would not shed light on pragmatic decision making about expertise. This requires the recognition that expertise is not a simple property or relation but arises from a dynamic set of interactions whose two poles are the production and the consumption of knowledge: At one pole expertise is produced or possessed, at the other it is consumed or used, and a dynamic interaction takes place between the two. Literature on expertise has adopted different approaches to integrating these elements. Some research studies have emphasized the discretionary power and ideology of expertise, others its intuitional and interactive nature, and still others its distributive character.

Discretionary Power and Ideology

In a society strongly shaped by and dependent on advanced technology the most commonsense approach to expertise is via the idea that experts possess a special kind of knowledge and skill that nonexperts do not have but need for ordinary and extraordinary activities. Not only do nonexperts routinely find themselves needing expert advice, the thought continues, but nonexperts would be acting irrationally if they failed to recognize the value of interacting with experts to acquire such epistemic counseling and defer to such advice. Thus, the philosopher John Hardwig argues, "The rational layman will recognize that in matters about which there is good reason to believe that there is expert opinion, he ought (methodologically) not to make up his own mind. His stance on these matters will—if he is rational—usually be rational deference to the epistemic authority of the expert" (Hardwig, 1985, p. 343).

A host of issues arise concerning how and in what conditions a nonexpert can decide which expert to trust. After all, the epistemic inequality that seems to distinguish experts from nonexperts in principle prevents nonexperts from making a justified epistemic decision. A nonexpert could choose who among available experts has the best credentials. However, that decision would be of limited value; it would not address adequately the potential differences between the quality of an institution and the quality of an individual. Hence, in "Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?" the philosopher Alvin Goldman contends that looking for a track record of success is the best way for a nonexpert to make a sound decision when selecting an expert to turn to for advice (Goldman 2001).

Steve Fuller, Paul Feyerabend, and Herbert Marcuse, among others, have countered that this commonsense position fails to address the way expert knowledge and skill is tainted by special interests, conceptual biases, and ideology and link the production of expertise to discretionary power and even to the aims of technocracy. In "The Constitutively Social Character of Expertise," for instance, Fuller (1994) contends that the significant dimensions of expertise can be specified when a social field is circumscribed. Fuller's work suggests that normative and epistemological implications would follow if people focused their attention on the ways experts create, maintain, and reinforce an interface in which their claims to cognitive authority are bolstered through networking and rhetorical persuasion. A consumer's apparent need for an expert's knowledge or skills could turn out to be a manufactured desire, created and maintained by a class of experts who want their services to be perceived as necessary or useful. Expert authority would be seen to emerge from nontransparent and sometimes deceptive interactions with consumers. If Fuller's account of discretionary power is accurate, the prestige and deference accorded to experts from every field must be tempered.

The philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend (1999) characterized modern scientific experts as "ideologues." From Feyerabend's perspective the more time and energy experts devote to advancing a position that accords with the tenets of Western science, the more difficult it becomes for them to be open-minded to points of view that call their core beliefs into question.

Still more radically Herbert Marcuse (1998) combines a Marxist approach to expertise with the Frankfurt School's use of Freudian psychological insights to critique the role of expertise in the aspirations and methods of technocracy. Modern occupations are characterized by an absence of socialization, in contrast with traditional skilled work, which involved socialization into a craft culture, and technical professions are geared toward producing instruments to serve the state. This process is made acceptable and desirable by the introjection of social demands in personality structures through processes of sublimation, reinforcement, and rationalization. Technical skills are not added to a preformed personality; instead, the personality is altered at its seemingly private core, the subject's very basis of selfunderstanding. This alteration of subjectivity, Marcuse finds, is integral to the perpetuation of the technological state. Experts and other trained professionals not only contribute to specific tasks and particular jobs but serve the "interest of autocratic power"; they assume the role of "social leaders" and "captains of industry" by virtue of being "technological leaders" (Marcuse 1998, pp. 54–55). Expert training is only one of the many factors in the environment of advanced capitalism that reduce the capacity for individuality in this positive sense, reducing the subject's capacity to exercise free judgment and proffer original or subversive criticism.

Intuitive and Interactive Experts

In contrast to an understanding of expertise in terms of discretionary power, ideology, and capitalist production, other approaches seek to access expertise through the process by which individuals acquire and maintain it. Hubert Dreyfus (1990), for instance, has analyzed expertise from a first-person perspective and, along with his mathematician brother Stuart (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1986), has produced a general model of skill acquisition that details the cognitive and affective changes that typical learners experience as they make the transition from having little skill (being novices) to making domain-specific decisions intuitively (being experts). Dreyfus's work makes it clear how extensively the question of skill acquisition is connected with human embodiment and the interaction between human beings and the world.

According to Dreyfus, human beings are not passive objects in or omnipotent manipulators of the world but are caught up in it, even and all the more so in regard to skilled behavior. This perspective reflects the basic phenomenological tenet that all practical and theoretical activities, no matter how abstract their outcomes, need to be understood on a continuum with basic lifeworld practice. Experts, Dreyfus insists, act the way all people do when performing mundane tasks: "We are all experts at many tasks and our everyday coping skills function smoothly and transparently so as to free us to be aware of other aspects of our lives where we are not so skillful" (Dreyfus 1990, p. 243). In other words, just as everyday drivers act intuitively when driving (i.e., their actions are not guided by explicit or implicit rule following, but they develop a contextually sensitive capacity for recognizing and responding to patterns that allows them to respond immediately and effortlessly to changes in traffic and road conditions), all professional experts act intuitively when making decisions in their fields: Fighter pilots act intuitively when engaged in combat situations; nurses act intuitively when caring for their patients; environmental scientists act intuitively when assessing whether building a dam will affect the local wildlife in a particular way; and judges act intuitively when deciding which precedent it is appropriate to appeal to in a case.

This phenomenological position potentially has profound implications for the ways in which experts should be trained, communicated with, and utilized. First, if experts solve problems intuitively, educational programs that fail to train students to make intuitive decisions will fail to produce expert graduates. The bias against treating intuition as a serious epistemic resource—one that permeates much of Western intellectual and scientific history and underwrites much of modern management theory—thus is called into question precisely because it impedes the cultivation of the highest form of problem solving and fosters a misleading sense that the human mind can be modeled on computational machines. Similar suspicion is cast on technologically mediated forms of pedagogy that inhibit instructors in relating to their classes intuitively. From Dreyfus's perspective instructors who are trained to view teaching primarily as an opportunity to convey content on the Internet will not be able to develop the expertise that emerges from face-to-face educational interaction, such as learning to read a class's body language to discern whether the presented material has been found to be comprehensible, interesting, or useful. Instructors also will be discouraged from developing the wisdom that comes from dealing reflexively with finitude (e.g., looking a student in the eye and admitting that one does not know the answer to a well-posed question). Students subjected to such an educational process will be trained inadequately.

Second, if experts solve problems intuitively, the social policies and expectations that require experts to translate intuitive decisions into general procedural rules, such as the protocols followed routinely by expert witnesses, should be reevaluated. According to Dreyfus's model, those protocols force experts to provide misleading narratives that distort the ways in which their judgments were formed. Not only does such distortion threaten to transform experts into an "endangered species," it also places the United States at an economic disadvantage: "Demanding that its experts be able to explain how they do their job can seriously penalize a rational culture like ours, in competition with an intuitive culture like Japan's" (Dreyfus and Dreyfus 1986, p. 196).

Third, if experts act intuitively, attempts to export human expertise into nonintuitive technologies such as expert computer systems will fail. This issue will become more important as an increasing amount and variety of medical decisions are delegated to expert computer systems.

Others, however, have noted that despite its benefits Dreyfus's account seems to downplay or even ignore the possibility that ideology and hidden agendas can creep into expert opinion. It therefore is critical to correct this account by exploring how such things are possible (Selinger and Crease 2002). Dreyfus's account also overlooks the different varieties of expertise in performers, critics, and sociologists. For instance, although an expert musician such as a first violin would have to play well, an expert in music might be a musicologist who did not play music at all.

The sociologists Harry Collins and Robert Evans (2002) distinguish between two types of expertise: "interactional expertise" and "contributory expertise." A contributory expert is a practitioner who learns to make contributions to the field by being physically immersed in its corresponding "form-of-life." Medical doctors, for example, develop medical expertise by attending medical school; they then contribute to the development of medicine by publishing medical papers that are based on their clinical experiences. By contrast, an interactional expert is someone who can talk competently about aspects of a field (e.g., pass on information, assume a devil's advocate position, understand and tell insider jokes, and make judgments on a peer review committee) but learns about the field only by talking with people who have acquired contributory expertise. In other words, whereas interactional experts have quite a bit of tacit (nonpropositional) knowledge, they are not direct practitioners in the fields they study. This means that someone who lacks full physical immersion in a field can become so conversant about that field through linguistic socialization that under the conditions of a Turing test (two people who have not met face to face communicating to one another by typing electronic text messages back and forth) it would be hard for authorities to decide whether that person was an interactional expert or a contributory one. A sociologist of medicine who never performed surgery could become so conversant about surgical procedures as to have the kinds of conversations that could convince practicing surgeons that the sociologist was actually a physician.

This position on interactional expertise has implications for the ways in which experts should be identified and treated. First, if interactional expertise fits the criteria Collins and Evans provide, many of the social scientific and humanities disciplines that typically are looked down on by practitioners of the natural sciences (as well as critics and coaches who are looked down on by primary practitioners) should be viewed in a new light; these are indeed real experts, albeit experts who possess interactional expertise.

Second, there may have to be additional legal discussions about who qualifies as an expert witness. Collins and Evans discuss the case of their sociologist colleague Simon Cole (Collins and Evans 2002). Although Cole does not analyze fingerprints, he has studied the methods and conventions of fingerprint analysis rigorously and, as a result of his sociological work, has come to serve as an expert witness. However, Cole's credibility could be contested by the opposing lawyers; after all, he is not a contributory expert. The key consideration, Collins and Evans insist, is that Cole's interactional expertise should be understood as entitling him to make authoritative pronouncements on fingerprinting.

Third, if interactional expertise fits the criteria Collins and Evans provide, political activists who are linguistically socialized into an expert discourse, such as AIDS activists who are socialized in that manner into medical discourse, have a new vocabulary from which they can justify their demands for social change (Selinger and Mix 2004).

Distributed Expertise

Yet another approach to expertise is to focus neither on the forces that shape it nor on its acquisition and various forms but on how it is distributed. Although other accounts address different types of agents as experts and different types of contexts that influence such displays of agency, they fail to reckon with the ways in which expertise is "distributed"—externalized into a network of tools and practices in particular settings such as the laboratory and social networks, standardized in technologies, and more (Mialet 1999).

Bruno Latour's discussion of the Association Française contre les Myopathies (AMF, or French Muscular Dystrophy Association) is a case in point (Latour 1998). The AFM acquired enough funds through charitable donations to contribute more than did the French government to basic research on the human genome. The supported scientists became world players in molecular biology and published some of the first genomic maps in the journal Nature. Once their basic research was completed, the AFM-sponsored scientists disbanded the mapping laboratories and turned their attention to the risky field of gene therapy. Latour describes AFM's headquarters as follows:

The very building at Ivry, south of Paris, where the AFM has its headquarters, illustrates the limit of a metaphor that would separate science from a society left outside: on the first floor, patients in wheelchairs; on the next floor, laboratories; on the third, administration. Everywhere the posters mark the next telethon while contributors visit the premises. Where is the science? Where is the society? They are now entangled to the point where they cannot be separated any longer" (Latour 1998, p. 208).

Latour's point is that what is happening at AFM is neither pure knowledge spilling over into application nor social pressure generating scientific research but represents a far more complex process in which expertise is inextricably bound up in network activity and a wide variety of events and interests can create and destroy its social stability.

The AFM research network may or may not prove to be a suitable model for science elsewhere or even a suitable model for molecular biology in the long run. Nevertheless, Latour claims that this case illustrates the fact that theorists of expertise need to be attentive to cases in which experts prove themselves capable of being (1) flexible because they are willing and able to adapt to, compromise with, and even change their intentions on the basis of the way unexpected network occurrences influence their initial goals; (2) selective because they are able to discern which elements of adaptation and compromise are important and which are inconsequential; (3) perseverant because they are able to endure the setbacks that occur when they attempt to enlist allies; (4) tactful because they are able to maximize other people's interests while remaining unobtrusive; (5) communicative because they are able to transcend the technical jargon concerning their specialization in order to bridge the gap between different people's interests; (6) creative because they are able to recruit likely as well as unlikely allies; and (7) cooperative because they are willing to accept compromise as an essential feature of network interactions.


Far more work needs to be done in exploring the role of discretionary power and potential ideological biases, the role of intuitive and interactive elements, and the distribution of expertise not only in analyzing the issues that arise within each of these perspectives but in seeing how these approaches overlap and differ. More work also needs to be done in approaching expertise in the light of other issues, such as participation.

However, the greatest obstacle to elucidating the nature, scope, and application of expertise is not the complexity of the process; complex phenomena are still amenable to description and analysis. The difficulty stems from how tightly expertise is woven into contemporary life and in how many different ways, making it difficult to place the subject at a manageable distance.

On the one hand, it is tempting but impossible to approach experts as one social class nested among others, such as engineers or doctors or lawyers, or as a subgroup within each social class whose activities may be defined and classified neatly and whose members are governed and disciplined by legislative bodies or citizen groups. However, the use of expertise ripples through modern life in so many forms that this is impossible. On the other hand, it might seem that the scope of expertise is too wide and too protean to lend itself to meaningful analysis. These problems have led some scholars to back away from the subject or to claim that it is ultimately without conceptual substance. Michel Callon, for instance, has described his research as challenging the distinction between expert and layperson, whereas Latour suggests that the concept of the expert is outmoded and is being replaced by that of the spokesperson. However, such cooptations, subversions, and replacements of the concept are unlikely to succeed. The problem of expertise will remain one of pressing issues of the twenty-first century.


SEE ALSO Authoritarianism; Citizenship; Constructive Technology Assessment; Democracy; Dewey, John; Participation; Peer Review; Pragmatism; Profession and Professionalism; Science, Technology, and Law; Technocracy.


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Hulbert, Ann. (2004). Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice about Children. New York: Knopf.

Kovera, Margaret; Robert Levy; Eugene Borgida; and Steven Penrod. (1994). "Expert Testimony in Child Abuse Cases: Effects of Expert Evidence Type and Cross Examination." Law and Human Behavior 18: 653–674.

Latour, Bruno. (1998). "From the World of Science to the World of Research?" Science 280(5361): 208–209.

Marcuse, Herbert. (1964). One Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press Books.

Marcuse, Herbert. (1998). "Some Social Implications of Modern Technology." In Technology, War, Fascism: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, vol. 1, ed. Douglas Kellner. New York: Routledge.

Mialet, Hélène. (1999). "Do Angels Have Bodies: The Cases of William X and Mr. Hawking." Social Studies of Science 29: 551–582.

Postman, Neil. (1993). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Vintage. This book is a polemic against many of the dangers of technology, including the dangers of allowing experts to have more authority than they sometimes claim to deserve.

Selinger, Evan. (2003). "Feyerabend's Democratic Argument against Experts." Critical Review 15(3–4): 359–373.

Selinger, Evan, and Robert P. Crease. (2002). "Dreyfus on Expertise: The Limits of Phenomenological Analysis." Continental Philosophy Review 35: 245–279.

Selinger, Evan, and Robert P. Crease, eds. (2006). The Philosophy of Expertise. New York: Columbia University Press. This is the first edited volume in which the topic of the philosophy of expertise is treated as a central concern.

Selinger, Evan, and John Mix. (2004). "On Interactional Expertise: Pragmatic and Ontological Considerations." Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3: 145–163.

Schuller, Regina, and Patricia Hastings. (1996). "Trials of Battered Women Who Kill: The Impact of Alternative Forms of Expert Evidence." Law and Human Behavior 16: 597–620.

Thorpe, Charles. (2002). "Disciplining Authority and Liberal Democracy in the Oppenheimer Case." Social Studies of Science 32: 525–562.

Walton, Douglas. (1997). Appeal to Expert Opinion: Arguments from Authority. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. This book examines the appeal to expert authority from a historical as well as logical perspective.

Weinstein, Bruce. (1993). "What Is an Expert?" Theoretical Medicine 14: 57–73.

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adaptive expertise
giyoo hatano

domain expertise
k. anders ericsson
robert r. hoffman


Investigators on knowledge transfer have almost unanimously concluded that students seldom effectively apply short-term training at school to problem-solving situations outside school. Experts, who have had years of problem-solving experience in a given domain, may not be differentthey can solve familiar types of problems quickly and accurately but fail to go beyond procedural efficiency. Even in knowledge-rich domains, experts may be characterized by their possession of problem schemas by which they classify problems and apply one of the solution routines accordingly.

The notion of adaptive experts as against routine experts was proposed by Giyoo Hatano as an ideal of educational researchers looking to find ways to teach students so they can apply learned procedures flexibly or adaptively. Keith Holyoak aptly describes the distinction: "Whereas routine experts are able to solve familiar types of problems quickly and accurately, they have only modest capabilities in dealing with novel types of problems. Adaptive experts, on the other hand, may be able to invent new procedures derived from their expert knowledge"(p. 310). Giyoo Hatano and Kayoko Inagaki, in their 1986 paper, slightly expand the above characterization of adaptive experts: They are able to (1) comprehend why those procedures they know work; (2) modify those procedures flexibly when needed; and (3) invent new procedures when none of the known procedures are effective.

Sources of Adaptiveness

Where does the adaptiveness of adaptive experts come from? Adaptive experts are assumed to possess as the source of their flexibility and inventiveness, conceptual knowledge of the objects of the procedures (that is, what each of these objects is like). "Flexibility and adaptability seem to be possible only when there is some corresponding conceptual knowledge to give meaning to each step of the skill and provide criteria for selection among possible alternatives for each step within the procedure" (Hatano 1982, p. 15). Such conceptual knowledge enables experts to construct mental models of the major entities of the domain, which can be used in mental simulation. Using Holyoak's expression, the key to adaptive expertise is the development of deeper conceptual understanding of the target domain. Needless to say, such conceptual understanding must be connected to procedural competencies and meta-cognitive awareness and monitoring of one's own understanding.

It is hypothesized that if people ask themselves why a skill works or why each step is needed during its application, this question will tend to lead them to form some conceptual knowledge about the object. This was similar to what Donald Schoen in 1983 called "reflection-in-action" as against technical problem-solving in his attempt to characterize professionals. Although experts are seldom taught conceptual knowledge in the verbalized form, they may construct it in the process of solving problems or performing tasks in the domain.

Motivational and Contextual Conditions

When are people likely to gain adaptive expertise? Identifying particular kinds of learning experiences that develop adaptive expertise is a serious challenge for educational researchers. In 1992 Hatano and Inagaki proposed four conditions that would promote sustained comprehension activity that is likely to lead to adaptive expertise. Their proposal is based on the assumption that cognitive incongruity (a state of feeling that current comprehension is inadequate; for example, wondering why a given procedure works) induces enduring comprehension activity, including seeking further information from the outside, retrieving another piece of prior knowledge, generating new inferences, examining the compatibility of inferences more closely, and so forth. The first two of the proposed conditions are concerned with the arousal of cognitive incongruity and the last two with the elicitation of committed and persistent comprehension activity in response to induced incongruity. The four conditions are: (1) encountering fairly often a novel problem to which prior knowledge is not readily applicable or a phenomenon that disconfirms a prediction based on prior knowledge;(2) engaging in frequent dialogical interaction, such as discussion, controversy, and reciprocal teaching;(3) being free from urgent external need (e.g., material rewards or positive evaluations), and thus able to pursue comprehension even when it is time consuming; and (4) being surrounded by reference group members who value understanding.

These conditions can be rephrased in terms of the nature of the practice in which people participate. For example, when a practice is oriented toward skillfully solving a fixed class of problems (e.g., making the same products for years), participants tend not to encounter novel problems, and thus they are likely to become experts distinguished in terms of speed, accuracy, and automaticity (i.e., routine experts). In contrast, when successful participation in a practice requires meeting varied and changing demands (e.g., making new, fashionable products), participants' prior knowledge must be applied flexibly, and they are likely to acquire adaptive skills. From sociocultural perspectives, adaptive experts may not be characterized only by their domain-specific knowledge; in order to invent new procedures, for example, in addition to deeper conceptual understanding, people have to be able to participate in discourse, offer valuable suggestions, evaluate others' suggestions, and so on.

Educational Implications

At school students are seldom expected to become experts in a particular domain. Rather they are expected to learn in many subject-matter domains. Thus the extent to which school instruction and vocational expertise share similar goals and processes of learning is debatable. Trying to build a classroom as a community of adaptive experts is challenging, but practically it may be too ambitious or require too much effort on the part of educators.

Whatever the ultimate goal for instruction should be, the concept of adaptive expertise "provides an important model of successful learning" (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, p. 36). It is thus encouraging to see attempts to apply this notion to teaching and learning in mathematics, science, history, and other subjects.

See also: Expertise, subentry on Domain Expertise.


Bransford, John D.; Brown, Ann L.; and Cocking, Rodney R. 1999. How People Learn. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Hatano, Giyoo. 1982. "Cognitive Consequences of Practice in Culture Specific Procedural Skills." Quarterly Newsletter of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition 4:1518.

Hatano, Giyoo, and Inagaki, Kayoko. 1986. "Two Courses of Expertise." In Child Development and Education in Japan, ed. Harold Stevenson, Hiroshi Azuma, and Kenji Hakuta. New York: Freeman.

Hatano, Giyoo, and Inagaki, Kayoko 1992. "Desituating Cognition through the Construction of Conceptual Knowledge." In Context and Cognition, ED. PAUL LIGHT AND GEORGE BUTTERWORTH. HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, ENG.: HARVESTER WHEATSHEAF.

Holyoak, Keith. 1991. "Symbolic Connectionism: Toward Third-Generation Theories of Expertise." In Toward a General Theory of Expertise: Prospects and Limits, ed. K. Anders Erricsson and Jacqui Smith. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press.

Schoen, Donald A. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Giyoo Hatano


Expertise refers to the psychological mechanisms underlying the superior achievement of an expert and the social forces that designate the status of being an expert, that is, "one who has acquired special skill in or knowledge of a particular subject through professional training and practical experience" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, p. 800). The term expert has been used to describe highly experienced professionals, such as medical doctors, accountants, teachers, and scientists, but has been expanded to include any individual who has attained superior performance by instruction and extended practice, ranging from bird-watchers to pianists, golfers to chess players.

Theoretical Frameworks

Experts' behavior looks so effortless and natural that it is often attributed to special talents, though knowledge and training are necessary. The role of acquired skill for the highest levels of achievement has traditionally been minimized. However, when scientists began measuring the experts' presumed superior powers of speed of thought, memory, and intelligence with psychometric tests, no general superiority was foundthe demonstrated superiority was domain specific. For example, the chess experts' vastly superior memory was constrained to regular chess positions and did not generalize to other types of materials. Not even IQ could distinguish the chess masters among chess players nor the most successful and creative among artists and scientists. In K. Anders Ericsson and Andreas C. Lehmann's 1996 review, it was found that (1) measures of general basic capacities do not reliably predict success in a domain; (2) the superior performance of experts is often very domain specific and transfer outside their narrow area of expertise is limited; and (3) systematic differences between experts and less proficient individuals nearly always reflect attributes acquired by the experts during their lengthy training.

Thought processes. In a pioneering empirical study first published in 1946 of the thought processes at the highest levels of performance, Adrian de Groot instructed expert and world-class chess players to think aloud while they selected their next move for an unfamiliar chess position. The world-class players did not differ in the speed of their thoughts or the size of their basic memory capacity, and their ability to recognize promising potential moves was based on their extensive experience and knowledge of patterns in chess. In their influential 1973 theory of expertise, Herbert A. Simon and William G. Chase proposed that experts with extended experience acquire and remember a larger number of complex patterns and use these new patterns to store new knowledge about which actions should be taken in similar situations.

According to this influential theory, expert performance is viewed as the result of skill acquired with gradual improvements of performance during extended experience in a domain. Furthermore, this theory assigned a central role of acquired knowledge and encouraged efforts to elicit experts' knowledge to build computer models of experts, that is, expert systems.

It is tempting to assume that the performance of experts improves as a direct function of increases in knowledge through training and extended experience. However, there are many demonstrations that extensive domain knowledge does not necessarily entail superior performance. For example, the outcome of psychological therapy does not increase as a function of the length of training and professional experience of the therapist. Similarly, the accuracy of decision-makingsuch as medical diagnosis for common diseases and the quality of investment decisionsdoes not improve with further professional experience. More generally, the number of years of work and experience in a domain is a poor predictor of attained performance.

The development of expert performance. In a 1985 pioneering study, Benjamin S. Bloom and his colleagues studied the developmental history of scientists, athletes, and artists who had attained international awards for their outstanding achievements. These elite performers did not attain their performance from regular experience in their respective domains but were given access to superior instruction in the best educational environments. Their families provided them substantial financial and emotional support to allow them to focus fully on the development of their performance. Bloom's influential research demonstrated the necessity for extended training in the best training environments to reach the highest levels of performance.

Effects of practice and experience. Subsequent research published in 1993 by Ericsson, Ralf Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Römer analyzed the effects of different types of experience on the improvement of performance. They found that in activities where individuals had attained an acceptable level of performance, such as recreational golf and many professions, even decades of continued experience was not associated with any improvement of performance. The researchers proposed that in those domains where performance consistently increases, aspiring expert performers seek out particular kinds of experience, that is, deliberate practiceactivities designed, typically by a teacher, for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual's performance. In support of a critical role of deliberate practice, expert musicians differing in the level of attained solo performance also differed in the amounts of time they had spent in solitary practice during their skill development, which totaled around 10,000 hours by age twenty for the best experts, around 5,000 hours for the least accomplished expert musicians, and only 2,000 hours for serious amateur pianists. More generally, the accumulated amount of deliberate practice is closely related to the attained level of performance of many types of experts, such as musicians, chess players, and athletes.


Advances in the understanding of the complex representations, knowledge, and skills that mediate experts' superior performance derive from studies where experts are instructed to think aloud while completing representative tasks and from studies using methods of cognitive task analysis and cognitive field research. These process-tracing studies have shown that the difference between experts and less-skilled individuals is not merely a matter of the amount and complexity of the accumulated knowledge; it also reflects qualitative differences in strategies, the organization of knowledge, and the representation of problems. During the acquisition of their performance, experts acquire domain-specific memory skills that allow them to rely on long-term memory to dramatically expand the amount of information that can be kept accessible during planning and during reasoning about alternative courses of action. The superior quality of the experts' mental representations allows them to adapt to changing circumstances as well as anticipate future events in advance, so the expert performers can respond with impressive speed. The same acquired representations appear to be essential for experts' ability to monitor and evaluate their own performance so they can keep improving by designing their own training and assimilating new knowledge.

See also: Expertise, subentry on Adaptive Expertise.


Bloom, Benjamin S., ed. 1985. Developing Talent in Young People. New York: Ballantine Books.

Chi, Micki T. H.; Glaser, Robert; and Rees, Ernest. 1982. "Expertise in Problem Solving." In Advances in the Psychology of Human Intelligence, ed. Robert J. Sternberg. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Dawes, Robin M. 1994. House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. New York: Free Press.

de Groot, Adrian. 1978. Thought and Choice in Chess. (1946) The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton.

Ericsson, K. Anders, ed. 1996. The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ericsson, K. Anders. 2001. "Attaining Excellence through Deliberate Practice: Insights from the Study of Expert Performance." In The Pursuit of Excellence in Education, ed. Michel Ferrari. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Ericsson, K. Anders, and Kintsch, Walter. 1995. "Long-Term Working Memory." Psychological Review 102:211245.

Ericsson, K. Anders; Krampe, Ralf Thomas; and Tesch-römer, Clemens. 1993. "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance." Psychological Review 100:363406.

Ericsson, K. Anders, and Lehmann, Andreas C. 1996. "Expert and Exceptional Performance: Evidence on Maximal Adaptations on Task Constraints." Annual Review of Psychology 47:273305.

Hoffman, Robert R., ed. 1992. The Psychology of Expertise: Cognitive Research and Empirical AI. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Proctor, Robert W., and Dutta, Addie. 1995. Skill Acquisition and Human Performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Simon, Herbert A, and Chase, William G. 1973. "Skill in Chess." American Scientist 61:394403.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary. 1976. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

Zsambok, Caroline E., and Klein, Gary, ed. 1997. Naturalistic Decision Making. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

K. Anders Ericsson

Robert R. Hoffman

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ex·per·tise / ˌekspərˈtēz; -ˈtēs/ • n. expert skill or knowledge in a particular field: technical expertise.