The Double Take of Expertise: Neural Expansion Is Associated With Outstanding Performance

Merim Bilalić*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The performance of experts seems almost effortless. The neural-efficiency hypothesis takes this into account, suggesting that because of practice and automatization of procedures, experts require fewer brain resources. Here, I argue that the way the brain accommodates complex skills does indeed have to do with the nature of experts’ performance. However, instead of exhibiting less brain activation, experts’ performance actually engages more brain areas. Behind the seemingly effortless performance of experts lies a complex cognitive system that relies on knowledge about the domain of expertise. Unlike novices, who need to execute one process at a time, experts are able to recognize an object, retrieve its function, and connect it to another object simultaneously. The expert brain deals with this computational burden by engaging not only specific brain areas in one hemisphere but also the same (homologous) area in the opposite hemisphere. This phenomenon, which I call the double take of expertise, has been observed in a number of expertise domains. I describe it here in object- and pattern-recognition tasks in the domain of chess. I also discuss the importance of the study of expertise for our understanding of the human brain in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)462-469
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number6
Early online date7 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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