Article

Thematic bootstrapping: Performance differences between expert chess players and novices

Article

Thematic bootstrapping: Performance differences between expert chess players and novices

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Abstract

Previous research has revealed that memory-based processes are one of the most consistent differences between a novice and a chess expert. The current study used a priming task in 57 adults to investigate whether priming improves the accuracy in finding the best candidate move for a given chess configuration. The stimuli were theme-based chess configurations that served as the prime and target during the procedure. Results indicated for experts that accurate processing of a prime's theme in a congruent trial results in a response priming effect, that is, more correct answers and a decrease in response time. The theoretical implications along with the possible applications of the results are discussed.

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Playing chess requires problem-solving capacities in order to search through the chess problem space in an effective manner. Chess should thus require planning abilities for calculating many moves ahead. Therefore, we asked whether chess players are better problem solvers than non-chess players in a complex planning task. We compared planning performance between chess ( N=25) and non-chess players ( N=25) using a standard psychometric planning task, the Tower of London (ToL) test. We also assessed fluid intelligence (Raven Test), as well as verbal and visuospatial working memory. As expected, chess players showed better planning performance than non-chess players, an effect most strongly expressed in difficult problems. On the other hand, they showed longer planning and movement execution times, especially for incorrectly solved trials. No differences in fluid intelligence and verbal/visuospatial working memory were found between both groups. These findings indicate that better performance in chess players is associated with disproportionally longer solution times, although it remains to be investigated whether motivational or strategic differences account for this result.
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