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The Cognitive Science of Medical Expertise

The basic science of expert knowledge and performance has long been of interest in psychology and education, and medicine is an outstanding example. Medical professionals acquire complex, interrelated knowledge and skills—e.g., symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments—over a period of years. They apply their skills in daily professional activities with stakes for patient health and well-being. And, they must keep cognitive skills current even as standards of care change. 

At the same time, the acquisition, maintenance, and assessment of medical expertise is in transition, often from point-in-time assessments to more frequent activities designed for both assessment and learning.  These transitions present exciting opportunities to apply cognitive science to facilitate the development and retention of medical expertise.

Studies in this special issue may examine learning by physicians and other medical professionals anywhere in the continuum from undergraduate study to continuing education. They may also probe the cognitive representation and processing of medical knowledge with studies of clinical reasoning or of medical errors. Studies may report novel empirical data and/or theoretical perspectives or reviews.

Edited by:

  • Scott Fraundorf
  • Susanne Lajoie
  • Nikki Woods
  1. Recent work has shown that perceptual training can be used to improve the performance of novices in real-world visual classification tasks with medical images, but it is unclear which perceptual training metho...

    Authors: Jessica E. Marris, Andrew Perfors, David Mitchell, Wayland Wang, Mark W. McCusker, Timothy John Haynes Lovell, Robert N. Gibson, Frank Gaillard and Piers D. L. Howe
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2023 8:19
  2. Relating learned information to similar yet new scenarios, transfer of learning, is a key characteristic of expert reasoning in many fields including medicine. Psychological research indicates that transfer of...

    Authors: Signy Sheldon, Carina Fan, Idil Uner and Meredith Young
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2023 8:17
  3. With a brief half-second presentation, a medical expert can determine at above chance levels whether a medical scan she sees is abnormal based on a first impression arising from an initial global image process...

    Authors: Gregory J. DiGirolamo, Megan DiDominica, Muhammad A. J. Qadri, Philip J. Kellman, Sally Krasne, Christine Massey and Max P. Rosen
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2023 8:10
  4. We investigated the relationship between category learning and domain-general object recognition ability (o). We assessed this relationship in a radiological context, using a category learning test in which parti...

    Authors: Conor J. R. Smithson, Quentin G. Eichbaum and Isabel Gauthier
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2023 8:9
  5. Extraction of global structural regularities provides general ‘gist’ of our everyday visual environment as it does the gist of abnormality for medical experts reviewing medical images. We investigated whether ...

    Authors: E. M. Raat, C. Kyle-Davidson and K. K. Evans
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2023 8:3
  6. Despite numerous investigations of the prevalence effect on medical image perception, little research has been done to examine the effect of expertise, and its possible interaction with prevalence. In this stu...

    Authors: Hanshu Zhang, Shen-Wu Hung, Yu-Pin Chen, Jan-Wen Ku, Philip Tseng, Yueh-Hsun Lu and Cheng-Ta Yang
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2023 8:1
  7. Previous research has highlighted the importance of physicians’ early hypotheses for their subsequent diagnostic decisions. It has also been shown that diagnostic accuracy improves when physicians are presente...

    Authors: Ploutarchos Kourtidis, Martine Nurek, Brendan Delaney and Olga Kostopoulou
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:103
  8. Radiologists often need only a glance to grasp the essence of complex medical images. Here, we use paradigms and manipulations from perceptual learning and expertise fields to elicit mechanisms and limits of h...

    Authors: Merim Bilalić, Thomas Grottenthaler, Thomas Nägele and Tobias Lindig
    Citation: Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications 2022 7:99