The Nature of ExpertiseA US Navy wiki (hosted by NASA) offers this take on what characterizes experts (somewhat edited):
- They can recognize meaningful patterns in a sea of information or stimuli. ("I've seen this before.") Research on chess players, for example, showed that, after very brief exposure, experts could reconstruct middle-game patterns much faster and more accurately than novices.
- Their more sophisticated, deep knowledge enables experts to observe finer distinctions. ("These sand particles are so small, they will clog engines" or "This particular shade of gray shadow in the x-ray indicates a cyst, not a malignancy.")
- Experts can access mental models, (schemas that capture the essential features of concepts, situations, events, or categories) either from known principles or from their own constructed rules, to help them structure, organize and store knowledge. ("Newton's second law applies here" or "The sequence of actions is wrong here" or "If the traffic is bad on the main thoroughfare, take side streets A, B, C.)
- Experts are more likely than novices to know what they don't know in a given knowledge domain ("I'm not sure the obvious explanation is the right one"), although not all experts are adaptive enough to challenge their own assumptions and knowledge.