Breadth and Depth of Knowledge in Expert versus Novice Athletes

In Damion Farrow & Joe Baker (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise. Routledge (2015)
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Questions about knowledge in expert sport are not only of applied significance: they also take us to the heart of foundational and heavily-disputed issues in the cognitive sciences. To a first (rough and far from uncontroversial) approximation, we can think of expert ‘knowledge’ as whatever it is that grounds or is applied in (more or less) effective decision-making, especially when in a competitive situation a performer follows one course of action out of a range of possibilities. In these research areas, studies of motor expertise have for many years actively contributed to broader debates in philosophy and psychology (Abernethy, Burgess-Limerick, & Parks, 1994; Williams, Davids, & Williams, 1999). When we navigate the world flexibly and more or less successfully, how much is this due to a capacity to represent it? In considering alternative options, or planning future actions, we seem to transcend our present environment in some way: what is the balance or relation here between highly-tuned bodily dispositions and background knowledge of the world and its patterns? What changes in these regards as we gain experience and adapt to more complex and challenging environments? Is know-how fundamentally different in kind from ordinary factual knowledge of the world, or knowledge-that? And if expertise in a domain does involve or depend on a knowledge base that is somehow more organized or deeper than that of novices, how is this knowledge selectively and appropriately deployed, often under severe time constraints?

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John Sutton
Macquarie University


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