Expertise in Complex Decision Making: The Role of Search in Chess 70 Years After de Groot

Document Type

Journal Article


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




This article was originally published as: Connors, M., Burns, B., & Campitelli, G. J. (2011). Expertise in complex decision making: The role of search in chess 70 years after de Groot. Cognitive Science, 35(8), 1567-1579. Original article available here


One of the most influential studies in all expertise research is de Groots (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 Groots study, leading some authors to argue that the cognitive mechanisms underlying expertise have also changed. We decided to replicate de Groots 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 Groots overall conclusions and are consistent with predictions made by pattern recognition models.