The Burden of Expertise
Erik Hofsetha, Tynke Toeringa, Geir Jordeta, Andreas Ivarssonb
a Department of Coaching and Psychology, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences bSchool of
Social and Health Sciences, Halmstad University
Evolutionary research indicates that underestimating one’s capabilities maximizes individual
fitness in extremely competitive conditions (Johnson & Fowler, 2011). Further, it has been
reported that the top performers tend to underestimate their performance attributes in
reference to their peers, which has been labeled as “the burden of expertise” (Dunning, 2005).
With respect to athletes’ performance, however, the general stand has been that positive self-
perceptions about one’s capabilities, even if they exceed one’s actual capabilities, are adaptive
(Bandura, 1997). This study compared youth elite players’ and coaches’ perceptions of
players’ skill level, and examined the relationship between this comparison and players’ past
and future record of playing international matches (N = 338, Mage = 17.8, SD = 1.1). A latent
class analysis (Nylund, Asparouhov, & Muthén, 2007) was performed in order to identify
subgroups within the population based on the players’ and the coaches´ ratings of the players’
skills. The model with three classes was determent to be optimal (entropy = .76, likelihood
ratio test p =.02). The classes consisted of 77 (class 1), 90 (class 2), and 100 (class 3)
participants. Participants in both class 1 and class 2 indicated higher scores on all skills in
comparison to the coaches’ scores. The opposite pattern was obtained among the participants
in the class 3, where the coaches’ scored higher than the participants on all skills. Further,
while controlling for age, a multinomial regression analysis (X² (6, N = 266) = 49.39, p ˂ .01)
revealed that in comparison to the participants in class 3, both the participants in class 1 (OR
= 0.66, p ˂ .05, 95% CI = 0.46, 0.95) and the participants in class 2 (OR = 0.82, p ˂ .05, 95%
CI = 0.71, 0.91) had a reduced likelihood of playing international matches the next two years.
Thus, the “burden” of expertise seems to be a phenomenon in youth elite soccer, predicting a
high future performance level. Unrealistically positive self-perceptions concerning skills
should therefore be discouraged. Consequently, coaches should provide players with feedback
and experiences that gives them insight into the limitations of their skills.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: Freeman.
Dunning, D. (2005). Self-insight: Roadblocks and detours on the path to knowing thyself.
New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Johnson, D. D. P., & Fowler, J. H. (2011). The evolution of overconfidence. Nature, 477,
Nylund, K. L., Asparouhov, T., & Muthén, B. O. (2007). Latent class analysis and growth
mixture modeling: A monte carlo simulation study. Structural Equation Modeling, 14,