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An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of knowledge, technique, or skill whose judgment is accorded authority and status by the public or their peers. The expert differs from the specialist in that a specialist has to be able to solve a problem and an expert has to know its solution. The opposite of an expert is generally known as a layperson, while someone who occupies a middle grade of understanding is generally known as a technician and often employed to assist experts. A person may well be an expert in one field and a layperson in many other fields. The concepts of experts and expertise are debated within the field of epistemology under the general heading of expert knowledge. In contrast, the opposite of a specialist would be a generalist, somebody with expertise in many fields.
Experts have prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field. In specific fields, the definition of expert is well established by consensus and therefore it is not necessary for an individual to have a professional or academic qualification for them to be accepted as an expert. In this respect, a shepherd with 50 years of experience tending flocks would be widely recognized as having complete expertise in the use and training of sheep dogs and the care of sheep. Another example from computer science is that an expert system may be taught by a human and thereafter considered an expert, often outperforming human beings at particular tasks. In law, an expert witness must be recognized by argument and authority.
The term is widely used informally, with people being described as 'experts' in order to bolster the relative value of their opinion, when no objective criteria for their expertise is available. Academic elitism arises when experts become convinced that only their opinion is useful, sometimes on matters beyond their personal expertise.
By a similar token, a fear of experts can arise from fear of an intellectual elite's power. In earlier periods of history, simply being able to read made one part of an intellectual elite. The introduction of the printing press in Europe during the fifteenth century and the diffusion of printed matter contributed to higher literacy rates and wider access to the once-rarefied knowledge of academia. The subsequent spread of education and learning changed society, and initiated an era of widespread education whose elite would now instead be those who produced the written content itself for consumption, in education and all other spheres.
See also Edit
Germain (2006) has developed a measure of perception of employee expertise called the Generalized Expertise Measure (GEM). She has also found that there is a behavioral dimension found in "experts", in addition to the dimensions suggested by Swanson and Holton (2001).
- Ericsson, 2000: Expert Performance and Deliberate Practice
- Harald A. Mieg, 2001: The social psychology of expertise. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- K. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul Feltovich & Robert R. Hoffman (Eds.), 2006: Cambridge handbook on expertise and expert performance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
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