With all we now know about the cognitive science behind expert behavior, is Sherlock Holmes still a good example of an “expert”?

In recent years, there has been an intense research effort to understand the cognitive processes and structures underlying expert behaviour. Work in different fields, including scientific domains, sports, games, and mnemonics, has shown that there are vast differences in perceptual abilities between experts and novices, and that these differences may underpin other cognitive differences in learning, memory, and problem solving. In this article, we evaluate the progress made in the last years through the eyes of an outstanding, albeit fictional, expert: Sherlock Holmes. We first use the Sherlock Holmes character to illustrate expert processes as described by current research and theories. In particular, the role of perception, as well as the nature and influence of expert knowledge, are all present in the description of Conan Doyle’s hero. In the second part of the article, we discuss a number of issues that current research on expertise has barely addressed. These gaps include, for example, several forms of reasoning, the influence of emotions on cognition, and the effect of age on experts’ knowledge and cognitive processes. Thus, although nearly 120 years old, Conan Doyle’s books show remarkable illustrations of expert behaviour, including the coverage of themes that have mostly been overlooked by current research.

Source: “Sherlock Holmes – An expert’s view of expertise.” from British Journal of Psychology.

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