Rasmussen (1983) argued that with expertise, task are performed in different ways. He made a distinction between Rule- (least experience), Knowledge- and Skill-based behavior (most experience). The idea is that with training, less deliberate thought is necessary to perform a particular type of task.

Another factor that may play a role in task-performance is executive functioning, such as planning and cognitive control, i.e. the ability to focus on a task or switch tasks, either pro-actively or re-actively (Braver, 2012). I've heard that with expertise, executive functions improve. However, I cannot find a reference to support this. Is there any literature that may support this statement?


Braver, T. S. (2012). The variable nature of cognitive control: a dual mechanisms framework. Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(2), 106-113.

Rasmussen, J. (1983). Skills, rules, and knowledge; signals, signs, and symbols, and other distinctions in human performance models. IEEE transactions on systems, man, and cybernetics, (3), 257-266.

  • $\begingroup$ Those two are the basics: Shiffrin, R. M., & Schneider, W. (1977). Controlled and automatic human information processing: II. Perceptual learning, automatic attending and a general theory. Psychological review, 84(2), 127.‏ Logan, G. D. (1985). Skill and automaticity: Relations, implications, and future directions. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 39(2), 367.‏ Have fun :) $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2016 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ Possible explanation could be that when a task is learned it takes less attentional resources to execute it. Therefore there are more spare resources left for other cognitive tasks. I suggest you look at literature for mental workload, information processor theory, limited resources theory. $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2016 at 17:31

1 Answer 1



I'll update this answer as I come across more papers, but here:

Alves, H., Voss, M. W., Boot, W. R., Deslandes, A., Cossich, V., Salles, J. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2013). Perceptual-Cognitive Expertise in Elite Volleyball Players. Frontiers in Psychology Front. Psychol., 4. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00036

The goal of the current study was to investigate the relationship between sport expertise and perceptual and cognitive skills, as measured by the component skills approach. We hypothesized that athletes would outperform non-athlete controls in a number of perceptual and cognitive domains and that sport expertise would minimize gender differences. A total of 154 individuals (87 professional volleyball players and 67 non-athlete controls) participated in the study. Participants performed a cognitive battery, which included tests of executive control, memory, and visuo-spatial attention. Athletes showed superior performance speed on three tasks (two executive control tasks and one visuo-spatial attentional processing task). In a subset of tasks, gender effects were observed mainly in the control group, supporting the notion that athletic experience can reduce traditional gender effects. The expertise effects obtained substantiate the view that laboratory tests of cognition may indeed enlighten the sport-cognition relationship.

It isn't a precise confirmation of the statement; after all, it only finds a relationship between cognitive control and expertise in a particular domain. But it definitely supports the statement.

This article here:

Voss, M. W., Kramer, A. F., Basak, C., Prakash, R. S., & Roberts, B. (2009). Are expert athletes ‘expert’ in the cognitive laboratory? A meta-analytic review of cognition and sport expertise. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(6), 812-826. doi:10.1002/acp.1588

performs a whole meta-analysis on athlete expertise and cognitive performance and offers a lot of results confirming increased attentional performance, but specifically states (in the year 2009!):

we found no studies that have examined classic executive function measures such as task-switching, dual task performance, or inhibition

The article found here found that:

Fencing experience and physical fitness facilitate a person's ability to withhold action when necessary. The interactive nature of aerobic fitness and sport expertise on action inhibition suggests that cognitive control benefits most from the combination of physical and mental training compared to when each is administered singly.

and I think I'm bored now! Hope this helps.


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