there are limits on the amount of information that people can hold in short-term memory, short-term memory is enhanced when people are able to chunk information into familiar patterns (Miller, 1956). Chess masters perceive chunks of meaningful information, which affects their memory for what they see. Chess masters are able to chunk together several chess pieces in a configuration that is governed by some strategic component of the game. Lacking a hierarchical, highly organized structure for the domain, novices cannot use this chunking strategy. It is noteworthy that people do not have to be world-class experts to benefit from their abilities to encode meaningful chunks of information: 10- and 11-year-olds who are experienced in chess are able to remember more chess pieces than college students who are not chess players. In contrast, when the college students were presented with other stimuli, such as strings of numbers, they were able to remember more (Chi, 1978; Schneider et al, 1993); see Figure 2.3.

Skills similar to those of master chess players have been demonstrated for experts in other domains, including electronic circuitry (Egan and Schwartz, 1979), radiology (Lesgold, 1988), and computer programming (Ehrlich and Soloway, 1984). In each case, expertise in a domain helps people develop a sensitivity to patterns of meaningful information that are not available to novices. For example, electronics technicians were able to reproduce large portions of complex circuit diagrams after only a few seconds of viewing; novices could not. The expert circuit technicians chunked several individual circuit elements (e.g., resistors and capacitors) that performed the function of an amplifier. By remembering the structure and function of a typical amplifier, experts were able to recall the arrangement of many of the individual circuit elements comprising the “amplifier chunk.”

Mathematics experts are also able to quickly recognize patterns of information, such as particular problem types that involve specific classes of mathematical solutions (Hinsley et al., 1977; Robinson and Hayes, 1978). For example, physicists recognize problems of river currents and problems of headwinds and tailwinds in airplanes as involving similar mathematical principles, such as relative velocities. The expert knowledge that underlies the ability to recognize problem types has been characterized as involving the development of organized conceptual structures, or schemas, that guide how problems are represented and understood (e.g., Glaser and Chi, 1988).

Expert teachers, too, have been shown to have schemas similar to those found in chess and mathematics. Expert and novice teachers were shown a videotaped classroom lesson (Sabers et al., 1991). The experimental set-up involved three screens that showed simultaneous events occurring throughout the classroom (the left, center, and right). During part of the session, the expert and novice teachers were asked to talk aloud about what they were seeing. Later, they were asked questions about classroom events. Overall,



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement