The Myth of ‘Just do it’: Thought and Effort in Expert Action preface



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Don’t think; just do?

The writer Heinrich von Kleist (1810/1972) claimed that “grace appears to the best advantage in that human body structure that has no consciousness at all—or has infinite consciousness—that is, in the mechanical puppet, or in the God” (p. 26). For those who hold that expertise is spontaneous and effortless, experts are the marionettes: after they have honed their skills, they dispense with self-regulation and are simply drawn to act in ways that are no longer under their control. In this book, however, I have tried to make the case that rather than being pulled by God’s strings, experts are today’s gods, who perform their exquisite skills with, if not infinite, than at least a great deal of thoughtful, attentive, and self-reflective conscious control.

Yet what about Balanchine’s claim that his dancers shouldn’t think? I asked Violette Verdy, one of the premier ballet dancers of the twentieth century, about this. Verdy was a principal dancer with New York City Ballet under Balanchine’s direction for eighteen years, during which time he created many famous roles for her. But Verdy brushed off the question. “Oh that,” she replied: “he only said that when a dancer was stuck, like an elevator between floors.” And after thinking this over, I realized that it makes perfect sense. Unreflective, automatic action does play a role in performing. But quite contrary to the just-do-it-principle, it is when things go wrong, not when they go right, that we need it.

And isn’t this also true of philosophy? When is it that you need to step back from thinking and just let your unconscious mind, or perhaps, not even the mind, but simply your hand guide your writing? Precisely when you’re stuck between floors. Yet it is not that the thinking itself that gets you stuck; it is not as if the thinking is interfering with the action, and the unconscious mind alone will take you on a gilded path to success. But philosophy—like any other area of expertise for which room for improvement is endless—is challenging, which means you might get stuck between floors. And when you’re really stuck—not just facing a challenging problem and finding flaws in all of your attempts to address it, which is the typically state of affairs in philosophy, but really stuck, in the sense of not being able to address it at all—just doing it may be useful. But then again, so might be not doing it at all. For even experts occasionally need to take a break.




1 Though in chapter 11, I do discuss the results of some informal experiments I conducted on chess players.

2 See David Chalmers’ (1996) discussion of the hard problem.

3 See, for example, Nisbett and Wilson (1977); Gobet (2009), and Bilalić et al. (2008a,b).

4 The phrase “think to win” comes from the title of a book by the tennis coach Allen Fox (1993).

5 Quoted in Jowitt (1989).

6 There are also numerous spin-offs of Gallwey’s book, including The Inner Game of Chess, The Inner Game of Trading, The Inner Game of Internet Marketing, and so forth.

7For example, from a 2007 USA Today article by Christine Brennan: “The Rockies…[are] a delight, playing unconscious baseball, winning 21 of their last 22 games.”

8 A more recent case is that of Rick Ankiel, who was a promising pitcher for the Cardinals, yet fell apart during his first postseason and became unable to find the strike zone. Although his pitching never recovered, after a few years of training, he returned to the majors as an outfielder. See, for example, Baumann (2013).

9 espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/post/_/id/34217/ icing-the-kicker-remains-ineffective-practice

10 Of course, academics too are susceptible to fads.

11 And the idea in a less extreme form seems to be present in various less esoteric texts as well. See Kyudo et al. (1993), in which the authors explain the goal in Japanese archery as “not the elimination of thought . . . [but rather] the elimination of the remnant of thought: that which remains when thought is divorced from action” (p. 22). See also Slingerland (2007).

12 Since there is little mention of wu-wei in the “inner chapters,” wherein one finds the examples Velleman cites, it is not clear that such examples should be meant to illustrate it. The concept itself seems to have originated in Confucius’ Analects wherein the ideal ritualistic ruler is described as one who need not speak, but merely “made himself reverent and took his [ritual] position facing South, that is all (15.5).” And according to Slingerland, the wu-wei is seen more as an ideal in social-political contexts than as a recipe for personal action. The Italian renaissance theorist Castiglione promotes a similar concept in arguing for the importance of the appearance effortlessness or “sprezzatura” in the ideal courtier. However, in contrast to Velleman’s idea of effortless expertise, Castiglione’s effortlessness is a guise.

13 From his 2001 book The Possessor and the Possessed: Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and the Idea of Musical Genius, Kivy also tells us, “of course it is a nice question where and how the gods get the ideas they impart to the poets and rhapsodes, but perhaps to consider thus is to consider too curiously” (p. 11).

14 See Suzanne Stern-Gillet (2004) and Nickolas Pappas (1989) for arguments about why Shelley is misinterpreting Plato.

15 Not to be confused with another aspect of the Nike trademark (besides “just do it”), the swirly line called the “swoosh.”

16 Following in Fitts and Posner’s footsteps, Anderson (1982, 1983, 1993; and Anderson and Lebiere, 1998) proposes that skill acquisition progresses from a “declarative phase,” in which performance is guided in a step-by-step fashion by information about skill execution held in working memory to a “procedural phase,” in which performance, rather than being guided in a step-by-step fashion, is thought to occur automatically.

17 For example, Anderson (1982), (1983), (1993); Fitts & Posner (1967); Keele & Summers (1976); Kimble & Perlmuter (1970); Langer & Imber (1979); Proctor & Dutta, (1995).

18 Goethe here seems to advocate a version of just-do-it wherein the conscious mind is not in any way responsible for optimal expert performance. However, interestingly enough, Goethe also says that a musical composition arises is, “through practice, teaching, reflection, success, failure, furtherance and resistance, and again and again reflection” (in letters quoted by Whyte, 1949: p. 128.) [check page #]

19 See also Maudsley (1867/1993), who summarized his ideas in The Physiology and Pathology of the Mind, saying “the most important part of mental activity, the essential processes on which thinking depends, is unconscious mental activity.”

20 See also Hill, David (2003).

21 It might seem that Dijksterhuis et al.’s (2006a,b) research, which suggests that in kinds of certain decisions, it is best to let the unconscious mind work for a period of time before consciously deciding on a solution to a problem. But I have no objection to leaving room for unconscious cerebration. Also, the subjects making the decisions in these studies are not experts in the domain about which they are making their decisions.

22 Almost exclusively, but not entirely: “But don’t ask them how they do it,” the psychologist David Myers says, “the sex difference as any chicken sexer can tell you, is too subtle to explain” (2002: p. 55).

23 Stanley and Williams might see this as consistent with their view since they do not think that having propositional knowledge of how to, say, ride a bike necessary involves being able to explain how to ride a bike.

24 Attributed by Chip Booth (chipbook.com) who owned a music store where Miller was a frequent customer.

25 See Andre Agassi’s description of playing while distracted over thoughts about his marriage to Brooke Shields.Agassi, Andre. (2009) Open: An Autobiography. New York: A. Knopf.


26 See my description of musician Alex Craven’s thoughts about what he ought to have done in chapter 5.

27 (Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body burns fat rather than glucose for energy. It may results in a funny taste in one’s mouth.)

28 See the discussion of proofs without words on MathOverflow, accessible via http://mathoverflow.net/questions/8846/proofs-without-words.

29 See Rietveld (2010) for an argument and discussion of how our everyday way of being primarily involves unreflective action.

30 And, as he explains, there is some disagreement just how long this time ought to be.

31 A more precise statement of the just-do-it principle can be found in the previous chapter (p. __).

32 See also Fitts & Posner (1967).

33 I have in mind here, the historian Woodrow Borah. He and his wife Terry were my parents’ dearest friends and for many years, Woodrow was my model of an expert.

34 It adds an extra layer of absurdity as well to Richard Feynman’s comment, which I quoted at the start of the preface, that “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

35 See http://www.castleconnolly.com/

36 See http://www.superlawyers.com/.

37 See www.philosophicalgourmetreport.com/.

38 See Camerer and Johnson (1991).

39 A nursing doctoral student explained to me once that a new technique, the body cooling technique, was introduced at her hospital to help infants who have reduced levels of oxygen or blood flow in their brains. She was the first one to learn it. Right away, even after she had performed in only once, she became the floor “expert” on body cooling. So natural language might occasionally count such individuals as experts.

40 Of course, backstage dressers, the people who help performers in and out of their costumes during quick changes, may very well count as expert buttoners, in my sense of the term, and dressers probably are much better at buttoning than most everyone else.

41 See http://www.philosophyslam.org/.

42 Obviously the philosophy slam competition does not do well at all, for my son didn’t win!

43 This is a difficult question, related to the issue of whether the use of beta blockers, a class of drugs which reduce the symptoms of anxiety, should be permitted during athletic or musical competitions.

44 Of course, there is a question here of how to determine what counts as performance. Should playing in the family house with family members listening in as they go about their daily chores count as performance? It is difficult to say.

45 The “Ten-Year Rule” was first formulated by Bryan and Harter (1899). Chase and Simon (1973) apply it to chess. Ericsson et al. (1993) show that it extends to music composition, sports, science and the visual arts.

46 The idea of analyzing mistakes as well as correct actions is especially a prominent in chess, where even grandmasters do post-game analyzes of how well they played. Compare this to Dreyfus’s view that “in all domains, masters learn primarily not from analyzing their successes and failures but from the results of hundreds of thousands of actions” (2013: p. 35). No doubt, those hundreds and of thousands of actions are important as well. The tennis champion Pete Sampras talks about training as a child, explaining that “I hit a million balls and that was important—I had to get that muscle memory, burn it in so it was a natural thing” (2008: p. 14). However, the analysis also seems crucially important.

47 See the preamble (p. 6) of CUNY’s “Statement of Policy on Multiple Positions”, accessible at http://www.csi.cuny.edu/facultystaff/handbook/pdf/Appendix_J_Multiple_Position_Guidelines.pdf [not sure how to format this as a proper citation]


48 In speed chess, this is less so, since the best players need to move exceedingly fast.

49 Does the choke require explanation or does it merely describe what would be predicted statistically? Psychologists such as Beilock who aim to explain choking in terms of increased attention to movement, assume that it is a phenomenon that requires explanation; I shall do the same.

50 See Baumeister (1984), Masters (1992), Wulf & Prinz (2001), Beilock & Carr (2001), (2005); Beilock & DeCaro (2007), Beilock & Gray (2007), Wallace et al. (2005), Ford et al. (2009), Beilock (2010), and Papineau (forthcoming).

51 As Jackson, Ashford, and Norsworthy (2006) maintain, the terms “conscious control” and “explicit monitoring” are distinct insofar it possible to consciously monitor one’s movements without consciously controlling them. However, it would seem that with conscious control comes conscious or explicit monitoring.


52Beilock’s research, as well as numerous psychological studies, such as Robert Gray (2004), Beilock et al. (2002, 2004), Ford, Hodges, and Williams (2005), and Leavitt (1979), appears to support the just-do-it principle, particularly the idea that “self-reflective thinking” interferes with performance.

53 Note that as Beilock and Carr explain their position in this quote, the idea that “higher levels of skill execution” have been proceduralized is assumed.

54 However, see Toner, Moran and Montero (forthcoming).

55 However, see Toner, Moran and Montero (forthcoming).

56 I would like to thank Lorenzo Ruffo, an undergraduate student at the College of Staten Island, for drawing my attention to this issue.

57 See also Abernathy and Hamm (1995), who explain that “the nature of expert [surgical] knowledge explains why it is difficult for the expert to explain accurately how he or she is able to make a diagnosis” (p. __).

58 See also Schooler and Engstler-Schooler (1990), who observed that participants who described a difficult-to-verbalize stimulus (the face of a bank robber) from memory were much worse at later recognizing that face than were participants who did not put their memory into words.

59 Of course, it is generally accepted that Plato understands this as showing that Ion is actual not an expert at his craft. (However, see the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s (1840/1965) translation of this dialog for an alternate interpretation.)

60 There is also a study showing that even without any training subjects can identify whether a poult is male or female with more than 50% accuracy. How do they do so? When asked, they say, “I noticed a bump, so I guessed male.” (citations)

61 Also see Stafford (1991).

62 Some colleagues advise abstaining from your own work for twenty four hours after a long session of grading undergraduate papers, so as to prevent any untoward stylistic influences.

63 To be fair, Beilock does point out in a footnote that the Baumeister research is controversial.

64 In their reply to Baumeister, Schlenker et al. noted that the probability of occurrence of such an aberrant sequence in 11 decisive games out of a string of 35 games (the number of seventh games covered in our article) is p = .0575, if one uses a very high baseline of 60% expected victories, and p = .1264, if one uses a more reasonable baseline of 55% expected victories (even this baseline is higher than the actual home winning percentage of 53.5% during baseball history). Neither of these probabilities justifies the conclusion that one should reject the null hypothesis using the traditional p < .05 level of significance. In fact, one would have difficulty convincing most researchers that a p = .126 is something that should be taken seriously given the controversial and counterintuitive nature of Baumeister's desired conclusion. Further, these probabilities refer to only a subset of all games; overall, the probability associated with a home choke in decisive seventh games of the World Series was p < .36. So, if one looks at all the relevant World Series data, the effect is not even close. If the pattern was merely a chance run, there is no reason to search for an explanation. Given the rest of the data they reported, including the clear reversal of the home choke pattern during other time periods, I would not want to attribute meaningfulness to the results in that subset.

65 Relating this to my own experience in the dance world, excess nervousness could be ruinous. It not only interfered with my ability to concentrate, but also had detrimental physiological effects (such as impeding circulation); when I was extremely nervous—which fortunately occurred only rarely—my body, especially my feet, would be ice cold – a disaster for a ballet dancer. Nothing I tried (practicing jumps and battement tendus (the staple of the ballet warm-up) in the wings, donning down-filled booties, stretching, etc.) could counteract it. And so, regardless of what was going on in my mind, I was not able to perform at my best since my body was not properly warmed up.

66 It is interesting to also note that practice of “icing the kicker” in football—whereby one team takes a time out right before a kick in order to induce choking by giving the kicker more time to think—is ineffective (espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/post/_/id/34217/icing-the-kicker-remains-ineffective-practice).

67 See, e.g., Ashcraft & Kirk (2001); Darke (1988); Derakshan & Eysenck (1998); Eysenck et al. (2005); Hayes et al. (2008); and MacLeod & Donnelan (1993).

68 For studies that reach similar conclusions see also Nicholls et al (2005) and Oudejans et al. (2011). See also Nicholls et al. (2005).


69 See also Rayn and Christensen (2013).

70 Might their performance be affected by the fact that they knew that after playing, they would need to record what was going on in their minds? It certainly might, however, although this might be relevant to the question of how much athletes think during games which they are not asked to do this, I don’t think it is relevant to the question of whether thinking interferes with performing. Even if the athletes end up thinking more than they normally would, it would seem that their reports of the effectiveness of their thoughts would not be significantly affected.

71 For further criticisms of the ecological validity of such experiments, see Gucciardi & Dimmock (2008: p. 49) and Wilson, Chattington, Marple-Horvat, & Smith (2007: p. 454).

72 Morgan and Pollock (1977) also report that world-class marathon runners almost invariably claim that they are acutely aware of their physiological condition during a race.

73 Arnold Steinhart, a violist with the Guarneri Quartet, who, as I suggested, advocates a balance between the intuitive and the deliberate and thoughtful during performance, also talks about the importance of slow motion practice that allows extended time for thought (1998).Steinhardt’s teacher, Ivan Galamian, also encouraged Steinhardt to focus on the details of his movements. Indeed, as Steinhart explains, Galamian wanted him at first to “concentrate on the finger motions of the bow hand by doing them without the violin” (1998: p. 29). His roommates, he said, wondered how he was going to become a musician without making any sound.

74 See Associated Press (2004). See also Montero (2010), p. 112.

75 This is not to say that simply thinking about stereotypes helps avoid the detrimental effects of stereotyped discourse, for as indicated by Beilock (2011, pp. 165-166, and 201), in reference primarily to a study on racial stereotype threat, (Steele and Aronson 1995), it seems that merely mentioning a stereotype can hinder performance on standardized tests (because, she hypothesizes, the subjects will have this stereotype in mind while taking the tests.) However, I take it that the situation I am describing is relevantly different primarily because the person who might make stereotypical remarks about girls and boys is not the one who is overtly negatively affected by the remarks; rather, it is the little girls who are always complimented on their looks are (or at least is seems reasonable to think that at least in our culture this could have a negative effect.) Another difference is that what I think is useful to keep in mind is not just the stereotype, or not even just the idea that there such a view is mistaken, but the idea that making remarks in accord with the stereotype should be avoided, the idea that you should not complement a girl’s looks. (It might be interesting to test how girl’s performance on standardized tests is affected by priming the idea that although there is a stereotype that they do worse than boy’s, there is no truth to it and that in taking the test they should overcome this and prove that they are just as (if not more) capable than boys.) Still another differences is that presumably making a casual remark to a girl takes far fewer cognitive resources than taking a standardized test and so diverting cognitive resources to the thought that one needs to say this rather than that would presumably not have a negative effect on one’s ability to make such claims whereas diverting cognitive resources even to thoughts about avoiding stereotypes might have a detrimental effect on the highly demanding task of taking a test. For other ways in which focusing more and thinking about one’s ordinary actions as one is performing them can improve those actions, see Shusterman (2008, 2012).

76 Gobet (2012) points out that the term “arational” is an “etymological monster,” as it combines a root from Greek and from Latin (p. 238). However, as precedent has been set, I shall stick with “arational.”

77 He explained that in his last performance he found himself coming up with a musical idea and then, he said, “I realized that the time for it had just passed.” I would say that thinking in music (or as some might put it, in the language of music), counts as a veritable form of thought that is not adequately expressed in words (and, as I discuss in later chapters, for a dancer, thinking proprioceptively and for a chess player, engineer, or mathematician, thinking spatially might be similar). However, it would seem that this thought was also partially in words.

78 Again, as the nurse practitioner Steven Baumann has emphasized, an extremely significant difference between these two cases is that in tennis, no life is at stake (citation).

79 See The Joint Commission (2014).

80 Dr. Steven L. Lee reports that “the extended STO [surgical time-out] before anesthesia induction improved communication among the surgical team members and did not disrupt work flow” (2010: p. 19).

81 Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986), for example, make this claim.

82 As I’ll discuss in the last chapter, there are other situations, such as a flight attendants actions in an emergency situation, where although one can practice the particular actions, for example, directing passengers to an emergency exit, one cannot practice them while experiencing the extreme rush of adrenaline that would likely interfere with thinking. In such a case, although some thinking may be advised, actions may need to occur in a highly automated way.

83 This is quoted in Murphy and White (1995), which documents many other athletes who claim to experience the slowing of time. There also seems to be empirical support for the phenomenon: See Yarrow et al. (2001), Haggard et al. (2002), Morrone et al. (2005), and Hagura et al. (2012).

84 See Tovée (1994).

85 As Yarrow et al. (2009) point out, researchers have now described how the ability to anticipate the effect of the opponent’s body part kinematics on ball trajectory for many sports.

86 For example, although all professional-level ice skaters practice an enormous number of hours every day, Deakin and Cobley (2003) have found that the best of them challenge themselves more by spending more time on jumps that they have not mastered, while the others spend more time on jumps that they have already mastered.

87 Ericsson points out, in some areas of expertise, such as radiology, it is very difficult to improve by merely doing one’s job, since one does not get immediate feedback about whether one’s judgment is correct (or on Dreyfus’s view, since the expert doesn’t make decisions based on judgment, one’s bodily sorting of one set of images into one pile and the other into the other). This stands in opposition to, say, surgery, where one receives some—and occasionally some very dramatic—feedback as to the outcome of one’s actions. And so he suggests that radiologist practice with past cases so that they can receive immediate feedback and when they find that they have made a mistake stop and try to figure out what went wrong in the process.

88 See the recent discussions in the media of Woods’ and Phelps’ new techniques: Harig (2010), Andersons (2009), Van Valkenburg (2009).

89 See Bishop (2014).

90 An analog to this in ballet is when a dancer decides to change the type of pointe shoes she wears. It is important for ballet dancers to use their feet in a supple way. For female dancers, moving up and down from the tips of one’s toes should be a roll, not a bump, and it is also considered important to not make a great deal of noise when running on stage. Some types of shoes (or the same type constructed by different “makers”: pointe shoes are made by hand, and professional ballet dancers usually order shoes from a particular maker) facilitate this more than others. I decided one point during my career to switch to a type of pointe shoe that was very quiet and supple. It was very difficult to do, and clearly at first my dancing suffered in rehearsal and in performance. But it seems to me that this was not because I was thinking about my feet, which I was nevertheless doing. Rather, it was in part because I did not yet quite understand how the shoes worked: in part because I hadn’t forged new automatic muscle movement, but primarily because my feet were not strong enough to work with these new shoes.

91 See also Collins et al. (2001).

92 Thanks to guy at Memphis? For making this point. Also I need to ask some coaches about this….

93 See p. __.

94 Makarova makes similar points in interviews printed in Eichenbaum (2008).

95 One might even question the truth of “the President is sober,” if one understands “sober” to mean not just not drunk, but not currently drunk, yet having a tendency to drink.

96 Referring to Yeats’ (1928) poem:O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can we know the dancer from the dance?




97 Here the authors cite Lay et al. (2002), Sparrow et al. (1999), and a review by Sparrow and Newell, (1998).

98 This chapter has benefited from comments from audience members at International Conference: Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind, Delmenhorst, Germany, 2013; I especially thank Richard Gray for his insightful remarks.

99 See Montero (1999), (2001), (2005).

100 After graduating from high school at age fifteen and before attending college, I danced professionally with Oregon Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theater, Florida Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet. Of course, I also have theoretical interest in this topic as well since in a forthcoming book I argue for the important of effort in expert action and thus it is incumbent on me to make sense of our appreciation of effortlessness in a way that is consistent with all this effort.

101 I am not sure that the connection between gracefulness and effortlessness is as tight as Bergson sees it since, as I shall explain later, I understand our attributions of effortlessness to depend in part on our knowledge of the difficulty of the movement; it is not clear that our attributions of gracefulness depend on this, or at least depend on this to the same degree. Clearly, there is much more to say about the relationship between effortlessness and grace, yet I shall, for the most part, pass over this, as there is already too much to say about effortlessness and its relation to other perhaps less difficult concepts.

102 As does the Swiss Butoh dancer, Imre Thormann, in his 2006 performance at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Japan. See www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ms7MGs2Nh8 for a video excerpt of this remarkable event.

103 See Kourlas (2012, Dec. 21).

104 If this is correct, those who walk effortlessly should not see or appreciate effortlessness (as opposed to merely smooth even movement) in the gait of others, for they do not see it as anything that would be difficult for them to do. Or at least they would not see it to the same extent as those who are not endowed with such grace. Whether this is true, however, I do not know.

105 The effortlessness in these works is in the representation. Raphael’s portrait of Pope Leo X, for example, reveals a man in tranquil thought, with his hands so smooth and delicate that they appear not only to be utterly relaxed as they rest, but to never have engaged in manual labor at all. Similarly, Raphael’s portrait of the great Castiglione himself reveals an individual who embodies the ideal described in the Book of the Courtier.

106 Montero (2006a,b). See also Montero (2011), wherein I discuss a number of the ideas that have come up in this chapter.

107 Is every attribution of effortlessness normative? Is effortlessness necessarily an aesthetic attribute? Or might there be cases in which we attribute it but do not intend to make an evaluative judgment? I am not sure how to answer these questions. The term effortless is usually used with a positive connotation; however, as it is not the case that all dance should look effortless, one can find if not the term, then perhaps at least the notion of effortlessness being used with a negative connotation.

108 Or at least this is true, barring (as I shall do) any general worries about whether we even have a sense of the self at all.

109 This, as well as the health benefits of exercise, was a topic of great interest to both my parents. See, for example, Montero, J. C. (1966) and Montero, J.C., and Montero, D. (1966).

110 See, for example, Kolata (2008).

111 One might even say, that in highly skilled movement, one experiences a pleasurable unity of mind and body, not through any philosophical argument, but through experience. However, it is certainly not clear that fewer philosophers would be dualists if they were highly skilled in a physical activity. Plato, for example, at least advocated gymnastic training for the youth, yet dualism was prevalent in ancient Greece. [flesh out a bit?]

112He did most certainly write, however, and at least in this one poem (Yeats, 1908: “Preliminary Poem”) sees the self as central:

Those friends that have it I do wrong

Whenever I remake a song

Should know what issue is at stake

It is myself that I remake.


113 This is from the transcript of an interview on CNN: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1210/19/ta.01.html

114 E.g., Patton (2009), Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology.

115 Some might balk at use of the term “knowledge” in “directors knowledge”, since sometimes so-called “director’s knowledge” is mistaken. If so, the term “knowledge” in this context should be thought of as in scare quotes.

116 Or rather, I would argue that when experts perform at their best, in general the self is not lost. See Montero (forthcoming), for discussion of this issue.

117 This might not always be a helpful thought since it might be that that in some situations, focusing on pain, rather than distracting oneself from it, reduces it. See Johnston, Atlas, and Wager (2012).

118 Another line of defense might even be that as there is no memory, there was no conscious experience.

119 This is a controversial topic among aestheticians (see, for example, Sibley, 1965; Cohen, 1973; Kivy, 1975; and Zangwill, 2001), however, I shall try to sidestep it as much as possible by focusing merely on examples of properties that almost everyone on either side of the controversy take as aesthetic, such as the property of being beautiful, being graceful, being powerful, and being precise.

120 To call such resonance a form of proprioception is clearing stretching the term. However, see my “How to Proprioceive Someone Else’s Movement” (Montero, 2003) for an argument suggesting that we should see it as such.

121 See, for example, Carolyn Korsmeyer’s delightful book, Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy (1999), and Dominic McIver Lopes’s interesting work on the aesthetics of touch (2002).

122 Of course, there are representational accounts of “pain” as well. E.g., see [citation].

123 This is consonant with the view put forth in José Bermúdez (1998), The Paradox of Self-Consciousness. See also Wittgenstein’s (1958) distinction between the body as “object” and the body as “subject.”

124 Thanks to Steven Jacobson for this point. Virtual reality might be another way an individual can proprioceive another’s movements, since virtual reality seems to create situations where we speak of proprioceiving a movement that is not a movement of our own body. That is, when watching an image of your arm reach out across the Hudson over to New Jersey, it seems that you are proprioceiving a virtual arm.

125 Credit for the phrase, “Beatles in a box,” which alludes to Wittgenstein’s “beetle in the box” thought experiment (1953: §293), goes to Josh Weisberg.

126 Graham McFee seems to argue along these lines in Understanding Dance (1992).

127 As Jonathan Cole has documented in Pride and the Daily Marathon (1995), if an individual suffers a loss of proprioception, the individual can sometimes learn to know where his or her own body is in space via other sensory processes – but it takes a tremendous amount of work to do so.

128 See also Montero (2012).

129 See Slotnik (2013).

130 Thanks to David Blumenfeld for suggesting this line of thought.

131 A dancer’s auditory sense may also inform his or her proprioceptive judgments: a movement that feels, say, humorous, might do so in part because it represents a rhythm that sounds humorous. Interesting thoughts on how the dependency also goes the other way can be found in Rosen (2002).

132 Phrase attributed to Adolf Anderssen.

133 Many of us, but not all of us. Dreyfus lives in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. People there are familiar with driving (I grew up around there; I know). In Manhattan, we’re more familiar with chess.

134 Gobet (2012: p. 238) points out that since the word “arational” combines a prefix from ancient Greek and a root from Latin, a better term might be agnomic (since the perhaps preferable term “alogic” already has a technical meaning). Perhaps this is so, but for consistency sake I stick with Dreyfus’s terminology here. Gobet does as well.

135 See also Saariluoma & Kalakoski (1998) for an illustration of how the Brooks' letter task, which involves counting the corners on block letters, degrades chess performance. For a view quite similar to the view I present here on awareness in chess, see Gobet & Chassy (2008) and (2009).

136 Furthermore, there are some kinds of tasks that seem to interfere with chess performance more than others. For example, it is thought that chess performance is degraded by tasks that interfere with visuospatial processing and executive processing more than tasks interfering with verbal processing (Saariluoma, 1992; Robbins et al., 1996).

137 Though this is generally true, very modern, very young chess playing prodigies are sometimes socomputer-driven that they never have to learn these rules. However, this is exceedingly rare. For a

discussion of how players rely on computers in contemporary chess, see Hartmann (2008),

especially his analysis of how the use of computers in pre-game preparations has led some chess theorists

to describe chess as “rule-independent,” and based more on calculation (pp. 55–56; footnote 21).




138 See also Gobet and Waters (2003); Campitelli et al. (2007); Wan et al. (2011).

139 In Montero and Evans (2011), we said that that “although grandmasters can usually beat international masters or weaker players without ever relying on anything beyond heuristics, it is times where specific heuristics are flouted which decide who wins in games between grandmasters.” Gobet (2012) points out however that even a top grandmasters would risk losing against an international master without relying on tactical thinking (p. 240, fn 3). This is a good point and we stand corrected.

140 As Gobet (2012) has commented, the empirical evidence for this is overwhelming. See, for example, De Groot (1978), Charness (1981); Gobet (1986), (1998); Saariluoma (1995), Campitelli and Gobet (2004), and Bilalić et al. (2009).

141 The hypothesize alternative causes, that is, unless they are using Dreyfus’s work to support their view. See Weiss and Reber (2012).

142 Also see Gobet and Simon (1996a), who present data that illustrates that stronger players are able to perform well against weaker players even when their time is limited.

143 Accessible at http://www.chessclub.com/.

144 According to Cory Evans, at the time of writing this chapter, Alexander Morozevich is probably the lone counterexample.

145During the 2010 World Championship, for example, we witnessed Grunfeld Exchange, Catalan, Slav, Catalan, Slav, Catalan, Slav, Catalan, Nimzo-Indian, Grunfeld, English, Lasker Defense. The only one of these that is not considered the absolute height of orthodox opening theory is the Grunfeld, and for this reason was considered a risky choice by Anand, even though it is still a perfectly respectable opening. However, when lightning time control is involved, you see a variety of unsound openings such as the Albin Counter-Gambit, hyper-aggressive lines in the Dutch, and a lot more speculative Sicilian variations. There are also a number of psychological studies supporting the idea that time pressure impedes performance (e.g. Chabris and Hearst, 2003).

146 Cf. Wayne Martin’s (2006) use of lightning chess as an illustration of a situation in which, although one makes a judgment, one does not explicitly review the evidence for one’s judgment. Citing his own experience, he writes that when playing speed chess, “I make judgments—I reach a conclusion that is in some sense responsible to evidence—even though I don’t undertake any conscious deliberation and I experience my judgment as issuing more-or-less instantaneously” (p. __). As (I assume) Martin is not making a claim about highly skilled lightning chess players, my conclusions are consistent with his view.

147 I recorded all sessions and listened to them and transcribed various sections of them myself.

148 Of course, lightning chess also relies significantly on pattern recognition, and since as pattern recognition, which allows players basically instantaneously to see a good move or a limited number of candidate moves, or to focus on only certain lines of search, it seems likely that pattern recognition is more important in speed chess than is calculation. However, there is some indication, albeit very weak, that in speed chess, a player’s ability to deliberate quickly is actually more important than his or her ability to recognize patterns on the board. So far, all of the world chess championships that have been decided by a five minute game have been won by the younger player. Since (as suggested by Charness’ 1981 study) younger grandmasters rely more on calculation than older Grandmasters, it could be the younger players’ superior ability to quickly calculate that is decisive in these outcomes. No doubt, other factors might fully explain the outcome. For example, it may be that the younger players have simply practiced more speed chess than the older players (the popularity of speed chess seems to have increased dramatically so even though older players have had a longer lifetime during which to play than younger players, it is not at all clear that older players have been playing speed chess for a longer time than younger players). Reflex time may be relevant as well (though in a five minute, as opposed to a one minute or quicker game, this may not be decisive.) And as the number of chess matches at issue is so small (only #), it is not even clear that there is a real phenomenon here to uncover. So at best, we have a very weak indication of the relative importance of deliberation over pattern recognition in speed chess, and ultimately, as I explain in the section on intuition, I leave open the question of the relative importance of deliberation and patter recognition in expert chess playing quite generally.

149See also Gobet and Simon’s (1996a) paper on Kasparov’s simultaneous matches against national teams.

150 Dreyfus also argues more generally against chess ability being a particularly analytic skill, by suggesting that Grandmaster chess players are not especially mathematical. He quotes his brother, who was the captain of the chess team at Harvard, who claims that his analytic approach to chess stymied his progress: “while students of mathematics and related topics predominate in the population of young people enthusiastic about chess, you are as likely to find a truck driver as a mathematician among the world's best players. You are more likely to find an amateur psychologist or a journalist” (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, 1986: p. 25). Is this correct? To be sure, the very best players are as likely to be mathematicians as truck drivers, since the very best players are invariably professional chess players, and thus neither mathematicians nor truck drivers! Nonetheless, as de Groot's (1978) data suggests on the occupations grandmasters indicates, among the best players that do have careers outside of chess, many are attracted to mathematical careers (p. 364–366).

151 See also Holding and Reynolds (1982) and Saariluoma (1990). Not only is the data mixed, but there is considerable disagreement as to how to interpret some of it. For example, Gobet and Simon (1996a) argue that because Kasparov's chess rating drops from 2,750 to 2,646 when playing a simul which restricted the amount of time he had on each move, limiting a player’s time for calculation has little effect on quality of play, as a 100-point decrease in rating is “slight.” However, van Harreveld et al. (2007) take the same decrease to be “a significant decrease,” pointing out that at the time they were writing the paper, such a drop in rating would place the then strongest player in the world at somewhere around 60th place (p. 572, footnote 1). To put this in perspective, today a 2650 FIDE might be able to make about $40,000 a year playing chess; a 2750 player could easily make over $200,000 per year (Montero and Evans 2011: p. 190, footnote 20).

152 How important tactical thinking is for a Grandmaster may depend and the players age, for according to Charness (1981), “two players possessing the same rating may vary greatly in chunking pattern if one is young and the other comparatively old" (p. 30).

153 As noted by Chabris (1999),Both Lories (1987) and Gross (1982), as described by Hartston & Wason (1985), have found that given sufficient exposure time, masters could recall random positions better than could novices. Gobet and Simon (1996a) confirmed a skill difference in the random position condition with a meta-analysis of 13 studies. In a similar vein, Ericsson and Harris (1990) found that repeated practice in memorizing chess positions by a non-playing subject could raise performance on the recall task to expert levels. (p. 15)


154 See also de Groot,(1978).

155 For this point, Gobet cites O'Kelly de Galway (1963), Tals (1997), and Beliavsky & Mikhalchishin (2002).

156 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMe-hvCwTRo

157 For a discussion of the role of proofs without words in mathematics see http://mathoverflow.net/questions/8846/proofs-without-words

158 For proof, feel free to watch a video on my website: http://barbaramontero.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/as-easy-as-pi-100-digits/

159 Beilock and Carr (2001) have done some interesting work on so-called “expert-induced amnesia,” which indicates that college golf-team players do not remember as much about the mechanisms of their movements as novices. However, they remembered many more higher-level aspects of their movements. Mapping this onto chess, we would not be surprised to find that novices recall thinking about the basic rules and basic heuristics much more than experts, who may expect to recall thinking about the broader plans used in the game, and any novel opening themes they encountered.

160 This is related to the question of whether what one says without revision, without thought, is most indicative of one’s true beliefs. I certainly hope that this isn’t the case for me.

161 Interestingly enough, I have heard that in the ‘60s, there was an excellent driving manual published by the U.S. Air Force. So it might be that applying knowledge of military piloting to driving has better results than the reverse. The main idea of the manual was that accidents result when you are too close to another vehicle, pedestrian, or obstacle. And so the book focused on strategies for keeping your distance.

162 Of course, on my view, since thinking is a regular component of expert action, experts are always thinking in action; however, thinking about what is going wrong, because of its unpleasantness, may be an especially memorable event. Moreover, thinking often serves as a good excuse for sub-par performance: wouldn’t you rather say “I was thinking too much” than “I wasn’t paying attention”?

163 There are empirical studies that are claimed to show that thinking in certain situations (e.g., choosing the best automobile to purchase, or the most satisfying piece of art to take home) works best nonconsciously (e.g., Dijksterjuis et al. 2006, Dijksterhuis and van Olden, 2006). Are these also cases of peripheral thought? I’m not sure that they are, since they do involve a distraction task, but I do not take them to put pressure on just do it, since they are not testing experts.

164In what way does it alter thought? [a reference here?]. My own impression is that it allows for more attention to detail In contrast to Gauss, who is the most prolific mathematician ever, and whose work is generally recognized as deeper than Erdős’, Erdős rarely wrote papers alone. One wonders if his extreme stimulant use prevented him from slowing down enough to work out the details of a proof.

165 After buying coffee with the money he received from publisher’s representative in exchange for some math textbooks, Berkeley mathematician Ken Ribet said that he had turned theorems into coffee.

166 See the chapter entitled “The Muse in the Bottle” in Rothenberg (1990) for a discussion of this issue. “Faulkner,” he points out, “had long periods of abstinence, or virtual abstinence, during his working life, and it was during these periods that his great novels were produced” (p. _).

167 See Bengtsson et al. (2007), Limb & Braun (2008), Berkowitz & Ansari (2008), and de Manzano & Ullén (2011).

168 Playboy interview, part 1.

169 Chris Brown, however, told me that his radio has been broken for years. Perhaps, but in this context, note the recent See the stairway to heaven lawsuit….All of this talk about songs coming to musicians while driving made me realize how different this phenomenon is from finding ideas for a dance, which, when, it comes to steps is typically done by actually doing or doing to a degree the steps yourself; in this sense choreography seems much more bodily based than composing or coming up with music. I’ve choreographed a few dozen pieces and perhaps never had any thoughts, or at least any viable thought, about what to do for individual dancers while not somewhat warmed up and dancing myself, or at least, apart from the times where I’ve had dancers themselves create something while I watch and offer suggestions (though even here, I’d often want to try the movement, of mark it, if I am unable to do it.) There is a dearth of women choreographers in the ballet world, and though likely there are many reasons for this, the difficultly of coming up with inventive partnered lifts without being able to try the lifting process out may be one reason. In my own experience in choreographing lifts, I would need to just roughly indicate something and let the men come up with a lift that works. I was never disappointed in what they ultimately produced, yet it somehow felt like a gap in my ability to choreograph.

170 These comments are consonant with Jason’s Stanley’s theory of skill (2011).

171 I thank the musician Mike Errico for his insight on this topic.

172 They also fail to experience the “whoosh” since whooshes, on Dreyfus and Kelly’s view, come about only after prolonged training, and lead one to achieve at one’s best. My point is merely that their lack of experiencing the whoosh is not what robs their lives of meaning.

173 See, however, Johnson (2010).

174 And there are of course numerous other ways in which one might develop the golf-is-like-sex analogy; for example, both are more fun when not engaged in alone.

175 I’d like to thank John Krakauer for his illuminating discussion about how much time such ecstasy lasts. While we are on the topic, it might be worth pointing out that, no matter how long it lasts, it wouldn’t hurt to take a bit more time getting there. Perhaps Aristotle puts it best: “it is rarely that a godlike man is found” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1145a25). Fortunately, I’m married to one.




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