The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance

Reviews, Books

180720 Who Cares About Particle Physics?

Momentous topic and clear content shine through ho-hum writing style

180707 On Photography

Wonderful, challenging intro to art photography

180402 How to Write for Percussion

Companion to my next composition session

180108 The Character of Physical Law

Skip and watch the videos

170909 Capturing Music

Ideas for taiko notation

170904 How the Universe Got Its Spots

The ins and outs of being a physicist

170808 The Quantum Divide

Quantum theory through the lens of history-making experiments.

170731 Drawdown

Great resource for environmentalist priorities

170708 The New Urban Crisis

Important topic, deeply researched... impact hampered only by my weariness for figures.

170617 From Mathematics to Generic Programming

Rewarding at any level of engagement, from general historical overview to deep programming study.

170524 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Quick but insubstantial read.

170311 Red Rover

Recommended for NASA lovers (aren't we all NASA lovers?!).

170225 Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life

Highly recommended, for the physics and to fall in love with the author

170123 The Life You Can Save: Effective giving against extreme poverty

How to target your charitable giving

170112 Contemporary Directions in Asian American Dance

Stiff academic writing contains gems

161224 The Spy Who Couldn't Spell

Slow start, didn't finis

161023 Los Angeles Union Station

LA nerds unite!

160927 The Art of Learning

What chess and competitive Tai Chi reveal about learning

160903 Walkable City

LA voters, please read!

160822 Ending Medical Reversal

Important book for navigating modern healthcare

160819 Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

"Fixed" vs "growth" mindsets in excruciating detail

160815 Creativity: The Perfect Crime

An artists notebook

160808 The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World

Convincing case for role of econ in addressing climate change

160726 Whatever Happened to the Metric System?

For the love of measurement

160706 Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England

Useful reflection on the tragedy of our country's founding.

160620 Audio Culture, Readings in Modern Music

About 30 pages in, I almost stopped reading. What a shame that would have been.

160613 Decorating with Architectural Trimwork

Examples of what not to do.

160613 More Not So Big Solutions for Your Home

Not so deep

160416 This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Fascinating and fair look at online troll culture

160405 Half-Earth

New environmental conservation goal: 50 percent of earth surface should be protected

160405 Birth of a Theorem

Rare insight into working mathematicians, charmingly opaque math.

160321 How to Bake Pi

Charming and though-provoking, if a bit scattered.

160319 Letters to a Young Scientist


160307 The Search for the Perfect Language

Only for language/history buffs

160307 Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance

Highly recommended for cyclists

160307 Black Hole

Recommended for cosmology lovers

150303 When Clothes Become Fashion

The best book I didn’t understand

150303 Art Power

Artful start, powerless end

150303 Brioni

Better than expected (the book and Brioni)

150303 This Changes Everything

Climate change facts and figures

150303 Designing, Building, and Testing Your Own Speaker System

Great starting point

150117 Pay Any Price

Useful info, shaky through-line.

150117 Cloudspotter’s Guide

Wanted to like it more.

150117 How We Got to Now

Science history!

150117 Closet Smarts

How to cover flaws (rather than redefine them)

150117 American Fashion

So-so intro to design of women's fashion design in America

150117 Charles James

Well-made cliche

141108 The Extreme Life of the Sea

A fun read for nature lovers

141108 Absolute Value

Vacuous book about a vacuous profession

141108 Real Talk for Real Teachers

The best book this month!

141108 The Dictionary of Fashion History

OK as reference, not useful to borrow

141108 Moving Through the Universe in Bare Feet

Not enough to take the leap

140919 Terpsichore in Sneakers

Awesome primer on post-modern dance

140919 It’s All About the Dress

It's too much about her

140919 Fashion

No theory, no groundbreaking fashion

140919 A History of Men’s Fashion

The best on the topic!

140919 Chanel

Uninspiring writing on an uninspiring designer

140909 Automotive Chassis and Body

The only source for this info!

140909 The Divide

Frustratingly important

140909 Missing Microbes

Slightly alarmist but worth reading

140909 The Code Book

Cryptography primer

140909 No Place To Hide

Thank you, Snowden!

140621 Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money

Agreeable premise, disagreeable writing

140621 How Bad Are Bananas

Facts and figures for the climate-aware

140621 Cool Tools

A bit thin on content

140621 The West Without Water

A CA water-drinker's resource

140412 A Perfect Moral Storm

Why accepting responsibility for climate change is hard

140412 The Sixth Extinction

Captivating, terrifying, motivating

140412 The Ethics of Climate Change

Life changing

140412 Climate Change

Good overview, likely outdated

140312 Climate Matters

Mix of esoteric philosophy and practical advice

140312 The Small Wood Shop

Inspiring ideas

140312 Sustainable Energy

Top-tier resource

140312 Eating Animals

Eat in line with your beliefs

140312 We are the Weather Makers

Not particularly inspiring

140312 Now or Never

Not my favorite on the subject

140312 How to Grow Fresh Air

So-so book on an awesome topic

140124 Mastery

Perfect for ambitious taiko players

140124 The Power Surge

Not groundbreaking but well-written and even-handed

140124 The Silent Pulse

Unnecessarily mystical

140124 Delusions of Gender

Part of the long march toward gender fluidity

140124 Stuff

Fascinating trivia yearning for more depth

140124 The Time of Music

Great for percussion composers

131121 The End of Money

Uninteresting book by a cash-hater

131121 Traffic

Required reading for LA residents

131121 Fresh Lipstick

Nuanced connections between fashion and feminism

130710 Web of Debt

Confirmation of why I don't like loans

130710 The Castle

Engagingly tedious

130710 Just Being At the Piano

The musician's path

130710 Contagious

How to trade integrity for popularity

130710 Pension Fund Politics

A useful, if biased, opinion

130710 Ethical Markets

Great points poorly written

130710 The SRI Advantage

The bottom-line benefits of socially-responsible investing. (Are those what matter?)

130710 Thinking, Fast and Slow

For all thinkers!

130710 The Fashion Reader

Critical fashion textbook

130413 Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire

A classic!

130413 Kanjincho

Serviceable summary of the play

130413 The Inner Game of Tennis

Great for teachers and students

130413 The Creative Director

Great for taiko teachers and composers

130413 Effortless Mastery

How to become the music

130413 The Green Collar Economy

A rising sea floats all boats

130413 A Universe From Nothing

Connections between the smallest and largest scales of the universe

130413 Steal Like An Artist

Thin. Should have stolen more content

130413 Antifragile

A challenging, deep tome

121231 Trust Me I’m Lying

Resist all advertising

121231 Notes and Tones

Felt guilty not liking this... will try again when I'm a more mature musician

121231 How Much Is Enough?

Info for the good life

121231 What Money Can’t Buy

Important read to resist the negative influences of markets

121231 How Music Works

Will check out again

121231 Which Side Are You On?

What page are you on? I stopped reading.

121231 Turing’s Cathedral

The personal computer's sordid start

121128 How Children Succeed

The fundamentals behind student success

121128 Basic MIG Welding Practices

Not useful

121128 The Handplane Book

Decent overview

121128 Towards A Poor Theatre

Interesting take on stage "honesty"

121128 Drift

Better than the TV show

121128 Welder’s Handbook

Great beginning welder's book

121128 Imagine

Can imagine worse... can imagine better

121128 Working with Handplanes

Good collection of articles

121128 Mathematics

Helped me love math

121128 Rethinking A Lot

Useful for LA commuters

120901 Choreography and the Specific Image

Not particularly inspiring

120901 Workshop Math

Oh to be a renaissance man!

120901 Kill or Capture

Still a pacifist but more understanding of Obama

120901 Being Watched

Useful inspiration when chorographing

120901 The Man Who Quit Money

Inspiring approach to life

120901 Consent of the Networked

The revolution will not be on Facebook

120901 The Net Delusion

Internet policy required to protect democracy

120901 The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

Why we lie and how to resist it

120701 The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

Great. And video is even better.

120701 The Intimate Act of Choreography

Great for choreographer's block

120701 The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance

Expertise is an adaptation

120701 The Art of Making Dances

Absolutely inspiring!

120701 Predator Nation

Wasn't in the mood for self loathing?

120701 Flow

Didn't finish... flowed on to the next book

120701 Feelings Are Facts

Insight into genius

120701 Free

Decent but not as inspiring as Eben Moglen

120701 Redirect

How to create productive self-narratives

120701 iDisorder

Not my (tech-inspired) problems

120604 Canning for a New Generation

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Canning for a New Generation
Liana Krissoff
pub. 2010, 303p
source: LAPL

120604 Make Space

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration
Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft
pub. 2012, 272p
source: LAPL

120604 Salted

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Salted – A manifesto on the world’s most essential mineral, with recipes
Mark Bitterman
pub. 2010, 312p
source: LAPL

120604 Choreography Observed

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Choreography Observed
Scott Belsky
pub. 1987, 294p
source: LAPL

120604 Making Ideas Happen

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — June 2012"]

Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the obstacles between vision & reality
Scott Belsky
pub. 2010, 242p
source: LAPL

120410 Adapt

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Adapt, Why Success Always Starts With Failure
Tim Harford
pub. 2011, 309p
source: LAPL

120410 Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars
William Patry
pub. 2009, 266p
source: LAPL

120410 The Creative Habit

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

The Creative Habit – Learn It and Use It for Life
Twyla Tharp
pub. 2003, 243p
source: LAPL

120410 A Guide to the Japanese Stage

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

A Guide to the Japanese Stage
Ronald Cavaye, Paul Griffith, Akihiko Senda
pub. 2004, 287p
source: LAPL

120410 Willpower

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Willpower – Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
pub. 2011, 291p
source: LAPL

120410 Knocking on Heaven’s Door

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How physics and scientific thinking illuminate the universe and the modern world
Lisa Randall
pub. 2011, 442p
source: LAPL

120410 IBM and the Holocaust

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — April 2012"]

IBM and the Holocaust, The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation
Edwin Black
pub. 2001, 519p
source: LAPL

111220 Creative License

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Creative License, The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling
Kembrew McLeod, Peter DiCola
pub. 2011, 325p
source: LAPL

111220 Program Or Be Programmed

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Program Or Be Programmed: Ten commands for a digital age
Douglas Rushkoff
pub. 2010, 149p
source: LAPL

111220 Using Drupal

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Using Drupal
Angela Byron, Addison Berry, Nathan Haug, Jeff Eaton, James Walker, Jeff Robbins
pub. 2009, 464p
source: LAPL

111220 The Chairs Are Where the People Go

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

111220 But Will the Planet Notice

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

But Will the Planet Notice — How Smart Economics Can Save the World
Gernot Wagner
pub. 2011, 258p
source: LAPL

The book’s ending provides the most concise summary.

111220 Moby Dick

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — December 2011"]

Moby Dick
Herman Melville
pub. 1851, 620p
source: LAPL

Just as I was lamenting my long lapse from reading fiction, my mom recommended Moby Dick. Why not be ambitious?!

I loved it.

111022 Moonwalking With Einstein

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Moonwalking With Einstein — The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Joshua Foer
pub. 2011, 307p
source: LAPL

111022 Life Inc.

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Life Inc. — How the World Became A Corporation and How to Take It Back
Douglas Rushkoff
pub. 2011, 247p
source: LAPL

111022 Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed — Educating for the Virtues in the Twenty-First Century
Howard Gardner
pub. 2011, 244p
source: LAPL

111022 The Art Instinct

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

The Art Instinct: beauty, pleasure, & human evolution
Denis Dutton
pub. 2009, 278p
source: LAPL

111022 Physics for Entertainment

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — October 2011"]

Physics for Entertainment
Yakov Perelman
pub. 2008, 330p
source: LAPL

110917 Freedom of Expression

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

Freedom of Expression – Overzealous Copyright Bozos and Other Enemies of Creativity
Kembrew McLeod
pub. 2005, 375p
source: LAPL

110917 Learning OpenCV

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

Learning OpenCV: Computer Vision with the OpenCV Library
Gary Bradski & Adrian Kaehler
pub. 2008, 555p
source: LAPL

110917 Small Is Beautiful

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

Small Is Beautiful — Economics as if People Mattered
E. F. Schumacher
pub. 2010, 324p
source: LAPL

110917 The Warrior Diet

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — September 2011"]

The Warrior Diet
Ori Hofmekler
pub. 2001, 359p
source: LAPL

110723 The Essential Touring Cyclist

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

The Essential Touring Cyclist
Richard A. Lovett
pub. 2001, 160p
source: LAPL

110723 The One Pan Gourmet

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

The One Pan Gourmet: Fresh food on the trail
Don Jacobson
pub. 2005, 182p
source: LAPL

110723 Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook — Worldwode Cycle Route & Planning Guide
Stephen Lord
pub. 2006, 288p
source: LAPL

110723 Designing Furniture

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Designing Furniture: from concept to shopt drawing, a practical guide
Seth Stem
pub. 1989, 215p
source: LAPL

110723 Great Soul

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India
Joseph Lelyveld
pub. 2011, 425p
source: LAPL

110723 The Perfect Edge

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

The Perfect Edge — The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers
Ron Hock
pub. 2009, 221p
source: LAPL

110723 Practical Furniture Design

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — August 2011"]

Practical Furniture Design: from Drawing Board to Smart Construction
various authors
pub. 2009, 268p
source: LAPL, no longer available

110708 The Information

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

The Information: a history, a theory, a flood
James Gleik
pub. 2011, 526p
source: LAPL

110708 Decoded

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

Jay Z
pub. 2010, 317p
source: LAPL

110708 Einstein: The Life and Times

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

Einstein: The Life and Times
Ronald W. Clark
pub. 1984, 878p
source: LAPL

110708 The 4% Universe

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark matter, dark energy, and the race to discover the rest of reality
Richard Panek
pub. 2011, 297p
source: LAPL

110708 Celebration of Awareness

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution
Ivan Illich
pub. 1989, 189p
source: LAPL

110708 In the Mirror of the Past

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

In the Mirror of the Past, Lectures and Addresses 1978-1990
Ivan Illich
pub. 1992, 231p
source: LAPL

110708 The Workbench

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – July 2011"]

The Workbench – A Complete Guide to Creating Your Perfect Bench
Lon Schleining
pub. 2004, 202p
source: LAPL

110509 The Happiness Project

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

The Happiness Project
Gretchen Rubin
pub. 2009, 301p
source: LAPL

110509 Michael Polanyi

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Michael Polanyi
Mark T. Mitchell
pub. 2006, 195p
source: LAPL

110509 Organizing from the Inside Out

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Organizing from the Inside Out
Julie Morgenstern
pub. 2004, 320p
source: LAPL

110509 Massive

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Massive – The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science
Ian Sample
pub. 2010, 260p
source: LAPL

110509 Against Method

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Against Method
Paul Feyerabend
pub. 1978, 339p
source: LAPL

110509 Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite — Evolution and the Modular Mind
Robert Kurzban
pub. 2010, 274p
source: LAPL

110509 Modern Spice

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Modern Spice — Inspired indian flavors for the contemporary kitchen
Monica Bhide
pub. 2009, 265p
source: LAPL

110509 Making Workbenches

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Making Workbenches
Sam Allen
pub. 1995, 160p
source: LAPL

110509 Treasure Chests

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

Treasure Chests, the Legacy of Extraordinary Boxes
Lon Schleining
pub. 2001, 200p
source: LAPL

110509 The Workbench Book

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – May 2011"]

The Workbench Book
Scott Landis
pub. 1998, 247p
source: LAPL

110401 A Long Way Gone

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

A Long Way Gone – Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Ishmael Beah
pub. 2007, 229p
source: LAPL

110401 The Moral Landscape

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

The Moral Landscape – How Science Can Determine Human Values
Sam Harris
pub. 2010, 291p
source: LAPL

110401 The Science of Good and Evil

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

The Science of Good and Evil – Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule
Michael Shermer
pub. 2004, 350p
source: LAPL

110401 The Master Switch

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

The Master Switch
Tim Wu
pub. 2010, 366p
source: LAPL

110401 Piracy

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – March 2011"]

Piracy – The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg to Gates
Adrian Johns
pub. 2009, 626p
source: LAPL

101024 Decoding the Universe

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

Decoding the Universe
Charles Seife
pub. 2007, 296p
source: LAPL

101024 The Gift

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World
Lewis Hyde
pub. 2007, 435p
source: LAPL

101024 Very Special Relativity

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

Very Special Relativity
Sander Bais
pub. 2007, 120p
source: LAPL

101024 Common As Air

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – October 2010"]

Common As Air – Revolution, Art, and Ownership
Lewis Hyde
pub. 2010, 306p
source: LAPL

101024 The Shallows

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains
Nicholas Carr
pub. 2010, 304p
source: LAPL

101024 Shop Class As Soulcraft

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

Shop Class As Soulcraft, An Inquiry Into the Value of Work
Matthew B. Crawford
pub. 2009, 246p
source: LAPL

101024 The Matchbox That Ate A Fourty-Ton Truck

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

The Matchbox That Ate A Fourty-Ton Truck – What everyday things tell us about the universe
Marcus Chown
pub. 2010, 269p
source: LAPL

101024 Payback

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – December 2010"]

Payback, Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth
Margaret Atwood
pub. 2008, 230p
source: LAPL

100828 Laban for Actors and Dancers

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Laban for Actors and Dancers
Jean Newlove
pub. 1993, 158p
source: LAPL

100828 Alphabet of Movements of the Human Body

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Alphabet of Movements of the Human Body
Vladimir Ivanovitch Stepanov
pub. 1969, 47p
source: LAPL

100828 On the Count of One

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

On the Count of One
Elizabeth Sherbon
pub. 1969, 47p
source: LAPL

100828 Dance Notation – The Process of Recording Movement on Paper

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Dance Notation – The Process of Recording Movement on Paper
Ann Hutchinson Guest
pub. 1984, 226p
source: LAPL

100828 Dance Writing Shorthand for Modern and Jazz Dance

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Dance Writing Shorthand for Modern and Jazz Dance
Valerie Sutton
pub. 1984, 226p
source: author website

100828 Principles of Dance and Movement Notation

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Principles of Dance and Movement Notation
Rudolf Laban
pub. 1956, 56p
source: LAPL

100828 Movement Study and Benesh Movement Notation

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Movement Study and Benesh Movement Notation
Julia McGuinness-Scott
pub. 1983, 148p
source: LAPL

100828 Your Move

[Originally posted at as "Book reviews – dance notation"]

Your Move
Ann Hutchinson Guest and Tina Curran
pub. 1993, 158p
source: LAPL, no longer available

100630 What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews – June 2010"]


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Haruki Murakami
pub. 2008, 179p
source: LAPL

100630 Healing with Whole Foods

I eat like this for totally different reasons

100630 Beautiful Evidence

More great Tufte!

100504 The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint


100504 Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value

Not my favorite on behavioral economics

100504 Brain Rules

Can you find the signed copy at LAPL?!

100504 The Ethics of Authenticity

Didn't finish

100504 Virtual Music, Computer Synthesis of Musical Style

David Cope is incredible!

100401 The Art of Possibility

Zander's TED talk outshines this book

100401 Ayn Rand and the World She Made

The best way to know Ayn Rand

100401 Visual Explanations

Good as primer to "V.D. of Q.I."

100401 The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The best in the field

100401 Envisioning Information

Read everything by Tufte

100401 Just Food

Good info, so-so writing

100401 Money for Nothing

Insight into a sleazy industry by a half-reformed opportunist

090709 Outliers

A classic

090709 Musicophilia

A scientist's appreciation of music

090709 This is Your Brain on Music

A fun look at the biology behind music

081227 home-construction (various)

All-things house design

The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance

[Originally posted at as "Recent book reviews — July 2012"]

The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance
K. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, Robert R. Hoffman
pub. 2006, 901p
source: LAPL

This is an amazing tome summarizing the wide range of research into all-things-“expertise”. Margaret McKenty recommended the book to me after I explained my dream to start a taiko school. Thank you, Margaret! This book inspired all sorts of ideas for better teaching!

The 42 chapters are divided into six major sections. I found “Methods for Studying the Acquisition and Maintenance of Expertise”, “Arts, Sports, and Motor Skills”, and “Gereralizable Mechanisms Mediating Expertise and General Issues” particularly thought-provoking, but even the chapters least related to music, like “Mathematical Expertise”, were worth reading. The book’s central theme, that expertise in all realms requires deliberate practice (more so than “talent”), is demonstrated in a variety of disciplines. I was pleased that my own approach to practice seems to be on the right track. The book was particularly useful to read as an aspiring teacher, re-thinking my dream taiko school as I read each chapter.

Most chapters read like scientific study summaries, starting with a definition of terms, discussing historical context, and then explaining the research. Compared to books on expertise by masters themselves, this approach avoids some of the possible ego and hubris. Although almost every study concludes, “more research is required”, I appreciated the book’s precision in language and even-handedness. The scientific study of a master chess player or athlete seems to me to honor the subject.

Favorite quote: “Expertise is an adaptation”

The classic study by de Groot (1966) in the domain of chess involved presenting chess players with meaningful chess boards for a brief interval, such as 5 seconds, to see how many pieces they could recall by reproducing the arrangements of the pieces on a a blank board. Chess masters were able to recall the positions almost perfectly (consisting of around 25 pieces). Less experienced players, on the other hand, typically recall only about 5 to 7 pieces (Chase & Simon, 1973a). However, when de Grooot (1966) asked the players to find the best move, the masters and the less experienced players did not differ significantly in the number of moves they searched nor the depth of their search, even though the masters were always able to find and select the best move. Likewise, Klein, Wolf, Militello, and Zsambok (1995) found that the first move that expert chess players consider is significantly better than chance.

We conducted retrospective, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with the individuals who met criteria of exceptional achievement set by experts in their respective fields. … One of the important findings from this study has to do with what we did not find. … Bloom expected that the individuals we studied “would be initially identified as possessing special gifts or qualities and then provided with special instruction and encouragement.” … But .. The individuals in the sample … did not show unusual promise at the start. And, typically, there was no early intention of working toward a standard of excellence in a particular field. … we found that the individuals were encouraged and supported in considerable learning before they were identified as special and then accorded even more encouragement and support.

… internationally recognized concert pianists worked for an average of 17 years from their first formal lessons to their first international recognition; the “quickest” in the group went from novice to tyro in a dozen years. For Olympic swimmers, 15 years elapsed, on average, between the time they began swimming just for fun and the time they earned a place on an Olympic team.

Students progressively adopted different views of who they were, of what their fields of expertise were about, and of how the field fitted into their lives (Sosniak, 1987). These transformations generally followed a pattern reminiscent of Whitehead’s (1929) rhythms of learning — phases of romance, precision, and generalization.

One of the lessons we learned from the project is that no one develops talent on his or her own, without the support, encouragement, advice, insight, guidance, and goodwill of many others. The many years of work on the way to international recognition involved increasing exposure to and participation in communities of practice for their respective talent fields.

This finding has led many of us, even from quite different theoretical orientations, to hypothesize that the central challenge of helping people develop exceptional abilities is that of creating and maintaining the motivation necessary to stay with a field for the many years it takes to develop expertise (Sosniak, 1987; Posner, 1988).

“relative experts are not merely better at doing the same things that others do; they do things differently…”

… an important challenge we face as we continue studying expertise, especially the development of expertise over the long term, is to beware of labeling levels of development below the ultimate as failures. Students who at some point in their development abandon a field in which they may have been selected as a potential elite or may have already demonstrated considerable expertise are not abandoning their talent. They may be choosing to devote their energies in other directions, but the talent they have developed already does not disappear.

… the elite and competitive skaters spent 68% and 59% of their sessions practicing jumps (more difficult practice), whereas the test group was engaged in those activities for only 48% of their on-ice time. … the elite group spent an average of 14% of their total on-ice time on rest, the competitive group spent 31%, and the test skaters, 46%. … the elite skaters utilized their on-ice time more effectively than the other groups by practicing the critical elements for a higher proportion of their on-ice practice time…

Although the three groups of skaters in this study had spent a similar number of years practicing, the actual active practice time would be in the order of 13% to 46% lower than the reported hours of scheduled practice.

… expertise of the highest order is most likely to appear in a particular sociocultural context.

2. The specific location of the peak (of performance) as well as the magnitude of the post-peak decline varies according to the particular domain of creative achievement. In some fields such as lyric poetry and mathematics the peak arrives relatively early and the age decrement is usually large, whereas in fields like history and geology the peak comes later and the ensuing decline is minimal
3. Properly speaking, the age functions just described above are based on career age rather than chronological age. …

Expert teams are composed of members who anticipate each other’s needs.

… families of high-achieving children changed their lives to accommodate the needs of their talented offsprings, for example, by exempting them from household chores to give them additional time to practice.

… the number of hours necessary for achieving particular levels of performance is not a constant across all musical instruments. … Pianists and violinists tend to be practice fanatics … followed by other strings, organ, woodwinds and brass, closing with the singers at the bottom of the list.

… the piano teacher Matthay (1926), … remarked that slow practice without actually imagining the upcoming note “is only a useless fetish” …

Practicing is an effortful activity and a skill per se that has to be learned. … A number of studies revealed that (adult) supervision during practice is important for beginning musicians.

Whereas the focus of attention in novices is directed toward technical, low-level aspects, experts attend to higher-level, strategic or aesthetic issues, a finding also demonstrated for composing … and improvising …

Focal dystonia, a condition where, for instance, fingers start to perform involuntary movements when other fingers are activated, may be due to an overlap of expanded cortical representations…

… among the 44 dance teachers who responded, the majority employed both kinesthetic imagery and metaphorical imagery (“Imagine you’re moving through water”). The teachers reported that such metaphorical imagery was highly effective in getting dancers to move slowly and smoothly from one location to another.

… both common and uncommon movements were remembered equally well as long as the participants (non-dancers) performed them or imagined themselves performing them.

… it is nearly impossible to find meaningful differences between the factors affecting the acquisition of perceptual motor skills and those affecting the acquisition of intellectual skills…

If participants are given frequent feedback about their performance on perceptual-motor tasks, their performance in the short term is better than if they are given infrequent feedback. However, their performance in the long term is better in both domains if they are given infrequent rather than frequent feedback during training.

One instruction encouraged participants to focus on swinging their arms, whereas the other instruction encouraged participants to focus on swinging the club. The latter instruction, which provided an external focus for the golfer’s attention, was associated with more accurate pitch shots than the former instruction.

… independently of age, experts performed better than amateurs on all music-related speeded tasks, that is, speed was positively related to expertise but the relationship to age was not significantly different from zero. The single best predictor of performance on all music-related tasks was the amount of practice participants had maintained during the previous ten years.

… people are able to reach world-class levels in fewer than ten years in activities that lack a history of organized international competition.

All groups of expert violinists were found to spend about the same amount of time (over 50 hours) per week on music-related activities.

The key empirical observation is that people can increase their typing speed by exerting full concentration toward improvement.

The perspective of deliberate practice attributes the rarity of excellence to the scarcity of optimal training environments and to the years required to develop the complex mediating mechanisms that support expertise. Even children considered to have innate gifts need to attain their superior performance gradually, by engaging in extended amounts of designed deliberate practice over many years. Until most individuals recognize that sustained training and effort is a prerequisite for reaching expert levels of performance, they will continue to misattribute lesser achievement to the lack of natural gifts, and will thus fail to reach their own potential.

Expertise involves self-regulating three personal elements: one’s covert cognitive and affective processes, behavioral performance, and environmental setting. These triadic elements are self-regulated during three cyclical phases: forethought, performance, and self-reflection…

For example, (tennis) experts reported technique goals such as “toss the ball properly,” whereas non-experts reported general goals such as “concentrate,” and novice learners fail to set foals for themselves at all. In other research, learners who set a combination of process and outcome strategies performed better than learners who set singular goals… Process goals refer to improving one’s strategy or technique, whereas outcome goals refer to enhancing the results of performance…

Social cognitive researchers have identified four key self-motivational beliefs that underlie efforts to self-regulate: self-efficacy, outcome expectations, task interest/valuing, and goal orientation.

Approximately 80 to 85% of expert athletes… consider mental imagery to be an asset in their training…

A person’s records are more effective if they track not only his or her performance but also the conditions that surround it, and the results that it produces.

… when errors are attributed to uncontrollable sources, such as an opponent’s luck, learners display negative self-reactions and diminished attainment of skill. By contrast, when errors are attributed to controllable sources, such as one’s strategies, learners experience positive self-reactions and increased skill.

There is evidence that experts are more adaptive, rather than defensive, in their self-reactions, preferring to adjust their strategy rather than to avoid the task.

… teaching athletes to select specific goals can lead to their selection of specific strategies to achieve those goals.

The group means ranged in order from lowest to highest as was predicted: no practice control group, practice-only control group, one-phase training (forethought phase), two-phase training (forethought and performance phase), and three-phase training (forethought phase, performance phase, and self-reflection phase). … the three-phase group and the two-phase group took significantly fewer practice shots than both the one-phase and practice-only control groups, perhaps because they were called on to self-record their shooting techniques at various points during the practice session. Thus, the quality (i.e., defined in terms of self-regulatory sophistication) of these novices’ practice methods proved to be more important than the quantity of their practice (i.e., number of shots taken).

… professional musicians showed remarkably poor performances on tests of musical talent

Krampe and Ericsson (1996) studied expert and amateur pianists of different ages, with a combination of experimental and psychometric measures of ability, along with self-report and diary data recording time investment in deliberate practice and other activities. The expertise-related abilities tested comprised virtuoso skills like maximum repetitive tapping and speeded multi-finger sequencing tasks, but also non-speeded tasks such as memorization of sequences and (rated) expressive musical interpretation. In line with results for typists and chess experts, the authors found that older professional pianists showed normal age-related declines in measures of general processing speed, such as choice reaction time and speed of digit-symbol substitution. However, though age-effects within the amateur group, with regard to expertise-related measures of multiple-finger coordination speed, were similar to those pertaining to the general speed measures (e.g., choice reaction time), they were reduced or fully absent in the expert sample. Taken together these findings led to postulation of an age-by-expertise dissociation of mechanisms underlying general processing versus expertise-specific processing.

The good news emerging from research on expertise and learning is that older adults can maintain high levels of skill through their own deliberate efforts, at least up to the third age (i.e., until age 70).

A professional can easily out-source diagnosis and treatment to specialists. In fact, a normal doctor who runs his or her own practice uses the help of specialized firms or coworkers for the analysis of blood and tissue.

… from Ericsson’s proposal: (1) expertise is necessary for creative accomplishment; (2) creative advances develop as the result of new techniques and skills; (3) creative advances extend the boundaries of the field of endeavor.

… the ubiquitous idea that creativity requires that we think “outside of the box.” Expertise, however, involves encapsulation of the past, so expertise would seem to be in conflict with the needs of the creative thinker…

(often labelled a “prodigy”,) Mozart learned his craft over many years, under the watchful eye of a professional teacher.

Siqueiros and his colleagues were Communist in their politics, and one of their goals as artists was to bring art down from what they saw as its exalted position among the elite and to make it more accessible to the masses. One way to bring this about was to use modern materials — including industrial paints available in cans, in place of traditional oil paints in tubes — and to replace traditional methods of painting, including the brush, with modern methods, such as airbrushing paint onto canvas.

Creative achievements, on the other hand, even radical and groundbreaking ones, typically do not go beyond the old in a quantitative way. Radically new approaches are not important because they are better than old approaches; they are important because they are different.