Rethinking expertise: A multifactorial gene-environment interaction model of expert performance

Psychol Bull. 2016 Apr;142(4):427-46. doi: 10.1037/bul0000033. Epub 2015 Dec 21.


Scientific interest in expertise-superior performance within a specific domain-has a long history in psychology. Although there is a broad consensus that a long period of practice is essential for expertise, a long-standing controversy in the field concerns the importance of other variables such as cognitive abilities and genetic factors. According to the influential deliberate practice theory, expert performance is essentially limited by a single variable: the amount of deliberate practice an individual has accumulated. Here, we provide a review of the literature on deliberate practice, expert performance, and its neural correlates. A particular emphasis is on recent studies indicating that expertise is related to numerous traits other than practice as well as genetic factors. We argue that deliberate practice theory is unable to account for major recent findings relating to expertise and expert performance, and propose an alternative multifactorial gene-environment interaction model of expertise, which provides an adequate explanation for the available empirical data and may serve as a useful framework for future empirical and theoretical work on expert performance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aptitude / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Professional Competence*