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Elisa Freschi

Helen, forgive me if I try to understand (and probably misrepresent something you said).

1. You say that skilled practice is significantly different than routine, insofar as skilled practice are context-sensitive, whereas routines are not.
--»Since you discuss the fMRI data concerning the acquisition of skilled practice, I wonder whether there is a significant difference in the acquisition of routines (I would expect this to be the case).

2. While you discuss the impact of deliberate practice, you state that the idea that deliberate practice alone would be enough (independently of teachers, I surmise) was current in the 1990s and has now been abandoned in favour of a more generous assessment of teachers and supportive environment, right? (I am asking because in connection with "30%" you link to too many articles on google scholars and I will not be able to read them all).

3. Last, I am not sure I can connect the paragraphs on deliberate practice and skilled practice with the last one on the increased ability to perceive minor differences. Do you mean to say that people learn through deliberate practice to reinvest brain areas into new tasks, so that they end up *perceiving* things, but only through the deliberate practice of learning how to perceive them?

thanks again for the stimulating mix of fMRI data and epistemology!

Helen De Cruz

1. Dear Elisa: Thank you for these comments! Yes, there is a significant difference in the acquisition of routines. Routines do not require deliberate practice- the thoughtful and deliberate way of practicing those elements of the skill you have not yet mastered. Take, for example, the light on the stairs. When I go up the stairs at night, I flip on the light switch - I do so because there is an association between [switch on light] and [go upstairs] when the condition [it's dark] is fulfilled. However, my lamp is broken and I have not yet replaced it. Still, I flip the switch without thinking because the association is there. My behavior is insensitive to the environment. By contrast, a skilled activity, though fluent, is responsive to all sorts of environmental factors, because I've trained it to be so. For instance, suppose I were an archer, I'd have practiced in wind-free conditions, strong wind conditions, hot and cold, light and dark, and thanks to the deliberate practice and neural wiring that comes with it, my archery would be responsive to all these conditions.

2. Correct - cognitive scientists thought deliberate practice was the only variable that mattered in acquiring an expert skill. Now we know that teachers, social environment, personal interest also matter. A rigorous study looking at these factors in chess and music can be found here: http://www.castonline.ilstu.edu/smith/405/readings_pdf/hambrick_deliberate_practice_2013.pdf

3. Yes - take the car and bird experts. Non-specialists use the fusiform face area as a visual area to discriminate between faces (broadly similar things that differ in details), but this network can be trained to become responsive to other categories of objects that differ in details. I've been told that grills of cars are really important to tell old models apart - a bit like the shape of eyes in faces. But it takes time and practice to get attuned to novel categories. First, you need to be on the lookout for the details that matter and seek them out consciously (e.g., headlights, grills), after a while with practice, your fusiform face are will pick them out and you need not use conscious control anymore to do it.

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