Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 313-337

First online:

Educational Implications of Expertise Reversal Effects in Learning and Performance of Complex Cognitive and Sensorimotor Skills

  • Slava KalyugaAffiliated withSchool of Education, University of New South Wales Email author 
  • , Remy RikersAffiliated withInstitute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • , Fred PaasAffiliated withInstitute of Psychology, Erasmus University RotterdamFaculty of Education, University of Wollongong

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There have been several rather counterintuitive phenomena observed in different fields of research that compared the performance of experts and novices. For example, studies of medical expertise demonstrated that less experienced medical students may in some situations outperform seasoned medical practitioners on recall of specific cases. Studies of cognitive load aspects of complex skill acquisition in technical and academic domains demonstrated that more experienced technical trainees or students may learn less than expected from instructions that are very effective for novices. Finally, research in the execution of movements in sports showed that, while novice players performed well under skill-focused and accuracy conditions, such conditions inhibited performance of experts who benefitted from speed conditions. Apparently, in each of those phenomena, there is a mechanism that disrupted successful expert performance while, at the same time, enhanced performance of less experienced individuals. This paper presents a review of the expertise reversal effects that have been found in the different fields and identifies their specific underlying mechanisms and common origins. Knowledge of theoretical models and empirical findings in one of those fields could enrich research ideas and approaches in others. The implications of these ideas for research aimed at improving learning and instruction are discussed.


Cognitive load theory Encapsulation theory of medical expertise Attention focusing in execution of complex sensorimotor skills Expertise reversal effect Intermediate effect Explicit monitoring effect