The curse of expertise

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The curse of expertise is a psychological concept[1][2] where the intervention of experts may be counterproductive for learners acquiring new skills.

This is important because the predictions of experts can influence educational equity and training as well as the personal development of young people, not to mention the allocation of time and resources to scientific research and crucial design decisions.[3]


A curse (from the Latin cursos) in this case means a habit formed by practices that were once successful tactics that have become socially intuitive in reality are counterproductive norms.

Effective teachers must predict the issues and misconceptions that people will face when learning a complex new skill or understanding an unfamiliar concept. This should also encompass the teachers’ recognizing their own or each other's bias blind spots.


The difficulty experienced people may encounter is exemplified fictionally by Dr Watson in discourses with the insightful detective Sherlock Holmes.[4]


Steven Pinker a Canadian-born American cognitive scientist, psychologist, speaking at Harvard University tried to identify exactly what was wrong with so much academic English:[5]


Quality assurance (QA) is a way of circumventing the curse of experience by applying comprehensive quality management techniques.


Professionals by definition get paid for technically well defined work so that quality control procedures may be required which encompass the processes employed, the training of the expert and the ethos of the trade or profession of the expert. Some experts (lawyers, physicians, etc.) require a licence which may include a requirement to undertake ongoing professional development (i.e. obtain OPD credits issued by collegiate universities or professional associations – see also normative safety.


Academics are usually employed in research and development activities that are less well understood than those of professionals, and therefore submit themselves to peer review assessment by other appropriately qualified individuals. See also perceived safety.


Amateurs work for love of their craft and therefore the safety and reliability of an amateur intervention lacks any external reference and must therefore rely on the individual’s moral responsibility.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sian beilock (2011-09-09). Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. Atria Publishing Group/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1416596189.
  2. ^ The curse of Expertise
  3. ^ Pamela J. Hinds, Stanford University (1999). "The Curse of Expertise: The Effects of Expertise and Debiasing Methods on Predictions of Novice Performance". Journal of Experimental & applied Psychology,1999, Vol. 5, No. 2,205-221. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ BBC Future:What Sherlock Holmes can teach us about the mind
  5. ^ Harvard Gazette, 2012-11-08 Exorcising the curse of knowledge