Expertise in complex decision making

The role of search in chess 70 years after de Groot

Michael H. Connors*, Bruce D. Burns, Guillermo Campitelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)


One of the most influential studies in all expertise research is de Groot's (1946) study of chess players, which suggested that pattern recognition, rather than search, was the key determinant of expertise. Many changes have occurred in the chess world since de Groot's study, leading some authors to argue that the cognitive mechanisms underlying expertise have also changed. We decided to replicate de Groot's study to empirically test these claims and to examine whether the trends in the data have changed over time. Six Grandmasters, five International Masters, six Experts, and five Class A players completed the think-aloud procedure for two chess positions. Findings indicate that Grandmasters and International Masters search more quickly than Experts and Class A players, and that both groups today search substantially faster than players in previous studies. The findings, however, support de Groot's overall conclusions and are consistent with predictions made by pattern recognition models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1567-1579
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011



  • Chess
  • Decision making
  • Expertise
  • Pattern recognition
  • Problem solving
  • Psychology
  • Reasoning
  • Search
  • Skill acquisition and learning
  • Thinking
  • Verbal protocol

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