Expertise and the Mental Simulation of Action

Authored by: Sian L. Beilock , Ian M. Lyons

Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  September  2012

Print ISBN: 9781841698878
eBook ISBN: 9780203809846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136678103


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What makes expert performance different from novice skill execution? At first glance, one might suggest that the answer is simple. It is the quality of overt behavior that separates exceptional performers from those less skilled. We can all point to many real-world examples of such performance differences—just try comparing any professional athlete to his or her recreational counterpart. Although actual performance is one component that differentiates experts from novices, overt performance outcomes are only part of the key to understanding skill learning, performance, and expertise. That is, skill-level differences not only are reflected in one's on-line task performance (i.e., the real-time unfolding of skill execution and its corresponding performance outcomes), but also are reflected off-line, in situations in which individuals are not overtly acting. In the current chapter, we focus our attention off-line on the mental simulation of action in an attempt to shed light on expertise differences in action perception, representation, and production. Such knowledge not only informs the question of what makes an expert different from his or her novice counterpart but also makes salient the robust and widespread influence that mental simulation has on our understanding and representation of information we encounter—even in situations in which individuals have no intention to act.

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