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K. Anders Ericsson

Traditional theories of aging claim that basic processing speed and memory capacities show inevitable decline with increasing age. Recent research, however, has shown that older experts in some domains are able to maintain their superior performance into old age. but even they display the typical age-related decline in performance on psychometric tests of fluid intelligence. The study of expert performance shows that adults retain the capacity to acquire and maintain performance with the appropriate type of training and practice, even speeded actions and many physiological adaptations. In fact, experts’ performance keeps improving for several decades into adulthood and typically reaches its peak between 30 and 50 years of age. The experts can then maintain their attained performance level into old age by regular deliberate practice. Much of the observed decline in older adults’ performance can be attributed to age-related reductions in engagement in domain-related activities—in particular, regular deliberate practice.

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A. Mark Williams and K. Anders Ericsson

In this themed issue of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, we bring together an eclectic mix of papers focusing on how expert performers learn the skills needed to compete at the highest level in sport. In the preface, we highlight the value of adopting the expert performance approach as a systematic framework for the evaluation and development of expertise and expert performance in sport. We then place each of the empirical papers published in this issue into context and briefly outline their unique contributions to knowledge in this area. Finally, we highlight several potential avenues for future research in the hope of encouraging others to scientifically study how experts acquire the mechanisms mediating superior performance in sport and how coaches can draw on this knowledge to guide their athletes toward the most effective training activities.

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Shamsi S. Monfared, Gershon Tenenbaum, Jonathan R. Folstein, and K. Anders Ericsson

This study examined attention allocation in 30 marksmen categorized into 3 skill levels ranging from expert to novice. Each shooter performed 336 shooting trials. Half of the trials were performed under an occluded-vision condition and the rest under regular, unoccluded conditions. Immediately after completion of a random subset of shots (96 trials), shooters estimated the actual location of each shot, and on a random subset of trials (48 trials), shooters gave retrospective verbal reports. A mixed 3 × 2 factorial analysis of variance revealed that the expert marksmen performed and estimated their shots more accurately than the intermediate and novice marksmen, the intermediates performed like the experts under the full-vision condition and like novices under the occluded-vision condition, and the experts reported attending more to nonvisual information while they estimated their shots than did the novices. The findings advance our understanding of the mechanisms mediating expertise.