BOOK REVIEW: Cognitive Mechanisms for Acquiring Experience (Part 2)


The main subject of the Lewicki, Czyzewska & Hill article (above) is expertise, and among their conclusions is that sometimes expertise requires "extended interaction (experience) with some specific areas of reality" including lengthy implicit learning involving acquisition of the "inferential encoding algorithms" ("non-conscious acquisition of complex encoding skills"). There is mention of a "ten-year rule" of thumb among researchers (a minimum of ten years of active experience to achieve true mastery in a particular area.

But they say, "this is not intended to imply that acquiring knowledge in a consciously controlled manner is unimportant in the development of expertise." (footnote, p. 162)

These authors seem ignore of one important way we acquire implicit learning and expertise--possibly because it would present hurdles to their empirical methods. Expertise can also be acquired through unconscious conversion of explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge.

One of the most interesting types of implicit learning is where explicit knowledge--or even specific memories--is allowed to be exposed to the "Shh" tract again and again and thus to build up the cognitive unconscious. One can "mindlessly" "run something around in his mind," many, many times, without trying to hold it in the form and meaning it had in its original acquisition. Over a prolonged period (perhaps even ten years!) one might acquire a new store of tacit knowledge side-by-side with the original explicit knowledge (just because the explicit knowledge has been converted to tacit knowledge, the original store of explicit knowledge is not destroyed).

Of course, the newly-acquired tacit knowledge would be in a new form which would require the person to try to figure out just what it is and what it means, and which might require different words to communicate it to others.

This is an important way of acquiring expertise. The expert's knowledge has become "real to him." It has become "a part of him". Rather than being mere "declarative knowledge" to be paraded out as a product of years of schooling, it is what he actually sees when he "looks out at the world."

The mind doesn't get "all the good" out of an experience the first time. It makes use of what it is ready for at the particular instant, and can learn a little more from the same memory each time it is "re-played." What it learns is unpredictable. But every time it gives one a little better grasp of the world.