Medical expertise asa function of task difficulty

Vimla L. Patel, Guy J. Groen, José F. Arocha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This paper is concerned with factors that disrupt the pattern of forward reasoning characteristic of experts with accurate performance. Two experiments are described. In the first, the performances of cardiologists, psychiatrists, and surgeons in diagnostic explanation of a clinical problem in cardiology were examined. In the second, the performances of cardiologists and endocrinologists in diagnostic explanation of clinical problems within and outside their domains of expertise were examined. The performances of researchers and practicing physicians are also compared. The results of Experiment 1 replicated earlier results regarding the relationship between forward reasoning and accurate diagnosis. There were no differences in recall as a function of expertise. Experts did not show any bias toward using specific knowledge from their own areas of expertise. The results of Experiment 2 showed that the breakdown of forward reasoning was related to the structure of the task. In particular, nonsalient cues induced some backward reasoning even in subjectswith accurate diagnoses. Some differences were also found between the types of explanation used by researchers and practitioners. The practitioners referred more to clinical components in their explanations, whereas the researchers focused more on the biomedical components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-406
Number of pages13
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Medical expertise asa function of task difficulty'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this