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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The very best performers in a domain seem to possess a level of skill that is qualitatively different from that of individuals with extended experience within the same domain. This chapter addresses questions of how such exceptionally superior levels of performance are attained. While some have posited innate differences to explain elite performance, the authors review evidence that expertise is primarily the result of cognitive, anatomical, and physiological adaptations to task constraints induced by practice. Adaptations include extended working memory capacity, ability to use cues to anticipate future states of the world, and even structural and functional changes to the brain. Accumulated amount of time engaged in activities specifically focused on improving current levels of performance (deliberate practice) is the most powerful predictor of elite performance. Contrary to notions derived from the skill acquisition literature, the authors present evidence that expert performance is dynamic and adaptable, not rigid, inflexible, and automatic.

Keywords: deliberate practice, learning, expert performance, skill acquisition, adaptation

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