Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


33rd Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2007

Event Details

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Special Event #101
Presidential Scholar's Address: The Acquisition of Skilled and Expert Performance through Deliberate Practice
Saturday, May 26, 2007
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Douglas BC
Chair: Thomas S. Critchfield (Illinois State University)
Presidential Scholar's Address: The Acquisition of Skilled and Expert Performance through Deliberate Practice
Abstract: Much of our scientific knowledge about principles of learning derives from studying how the environmental reinforcement contingences can shape and control the acquisition of comparatively simple behaviors in animals as well as children with mental and physical disadvantages. Dr. Ericsson’s talk will propose how a scientific analysis can be extended to the acquisition of the most complex of human achievements in domains of expertise, such as sports, ballet, chess, and medicine. The focus of this talk will be on the stable reproducible aspects of elite performers’ superior performance, how it is possible to capture this performance repeatedly under laboratory conditions to uncover the mechanisms, mediate, and explain the superior level of achievement. These discovered mechanisms have been shown to reflect predominantly complex adaptations and skills acquired over a decade as a result of high daily levels of activities, which are specially designed to improve performance (deliberate practice). The effects of extended deliberate practice are remarkably far-reaching and can account for anatomical and physiological adaptations of elite athletes and musicians as well as qualitative changes mediated by acquired cognitive skills. Consequently, the development of expert performance appears to be primarily limited by the quality of the training environment and individuals' engagement in deliberate practice.
K. ANDERS ERICSSON (Florida State University)
Dr. K. Anders Ericsson is presently Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from University of Stockholm, Sweden, and moved to a post-doc with Herbert Simon at Carnegie-Mellon University. Their work is summarized in Protocol Analysis: Verbal Reports as Data (1984/1993). Currently he studies the cognitive structure of expert performance in domains such as music, chess, and sports, and how expert performers attain their superior performance by acquiring complex cognitive mechanisms and physiological adaptations through extended deliberate practice. He is a co-editor of Toward a General Theory of Expertise (1991) and The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games (1996). He is the lead editor for Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (2006), which has been prominently discussed in New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, Fortune, and New Scientist. He is a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science. He has published over 150 publications in Science, American Scientist, Psychological Review, Annual Review of Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Trends in Cognitive Sciences. His Web page is



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