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The Expert Mind

There’s an article written a while back in the Scientific American that discusses what makes someone an expert in something. I found a lot of parrallels with learning sentences (these are the small chunks/quanta that the article discusses) and spaced repetition. You shouldn’t be reading English ;), but do check it out for some quick insight or whatever.

Update (2010/10/23): the original SciAm link is broken, but “Cockpits! Bobby Traps!” has found another copy of the article here.

  8 comments for “The Expert Mind

  1. Yorkii
    July 22, 2007 at 23:37

    Most interesting and true part:

    “”Ericsson argues that what matters is not experience per se but “effortful study,” which entails continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one’s competence. That is why it is possible for enthusiasts to spend tens of thousands of hours playing chess or golf or a musical instrument without ever advancing beyond the amateur level and why a properly trained student can overtake them in a relatively short time.””

  2. Tony
    July 23, 2007 at 03:36

    I’d be interested to hear (if you remember) how working through Heisig went for you. While i was reading the article I was thinking about all the little things I’m learning to chunk together now like primitives into one kanji, which I’ll eventually have to recognize and make into words and get on to sentences. What was the transition from one to the other like for anyone who’s done it?

  3. khatzumoto
    July 23, 2007 at 06:45

    Well, I don’t remember too much detail. I do know that thanks to Heisig, I don’t really see a kanji as “hard” or “easy”, they’re all just a collection of pieces to me.

    Also, as I read and hear more Japanese, I am able to process/remember larger pieces of Japanese. Also, I don’t read one kana/kanji at a time like I used to, instead it seems that I read in larger blocks (columns or large parts of columns at a time); I can generally predict what word the author is going to use next (having seen certain patterns repeated so often), and so this makes my reading speed faster…just like in English, I guess…

  4. khatzumoto
    July 23, 2007 at 08:18

    Yeah, like it says here, my chunk size is increasing:
    “Take the sentence “Mary had a little lamb.” The number of information chunks in this sentence depends on one’s knowledge of the poem and the English language. For most native speakers of English, the sentence is part of a much larger chunk, the familiar poem. For someone who knows English but not the poem, the sentence is a single, self-contained chunk. For someone who has memorized the words but not their meaning, the sentence is five chunks, and it is 18 chunks for someone who knows the letters but not the words.”

  5. July 25, 2007 at 12:32

    Interesting article. I’ve been using the sentence method for a while and while it is more tiresome than word-to-word flashcards, I feel I understand new words/grammar much better and use them more accurately.

  6. January 9, 2008 at 01:36

    I’m also interested in the quote following the one in the first reply… “It is interesting to note that time spent playing chess, even in tournaments, appears to contribute less than such study to a player’s progress; the main training value of such games is to point up weaknesses for future study.”

    Maybe it’s kind of like the thing about input and output. Listening and reading, or input, might be like studying chess games of the masters and using “effortful study.” Actually playing chess, just like trying to speak or write before one has sufficient input, might not help improvement as much.

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