Expert’s memory

[Added September 2006]
Advertising about memory training courses often promises that you will get
instant success after following them.
Of course this isn’t true. No memory training will transform you in a
genius. But let’s go the other way around : let’s see what is the role
of memory in a genius. Since geniuses are difficult to find and study,
we can try to study experts in some well known field. This is
what scientists are doing since many years with
chess masters
. Chess experts are given a number (a kind of vote) that
reliably measures the degree of expertise in playing chess. The results are
very interesting and seem to point to a very important role of memory. What
makes the difference between the amateur and the master is that the expert is
able to recognize “patterns” where a novice doesn’t see anything.
This kind of high level memory is acquired in many years (at least 10)
of effortful practice. This contrasts with the idea that a genius
is born i.e. Mozart that effortlessly composes music. In fact Mozart too
has done his ten years of practice guided in his effortful practice by his father who was a musician. It seems that only practice in an environment that provides challenges (thus effortful) can provide this superior memory. So experts and
also geniuses are made not born and need proper motivation and environment.
The process of being able to recognize these high level patterns is similar to the well known process of information chunking .