Much of expertise is tacit: that is, it cannot be captured through words alone.
Recognition-primed decision making (RPD), lies at the heart of understanding expert intuition. RPD explains how expert intuition works, and it tells us why experts have so much difficulty when it comes to explaining their expertise.
The RPD model describes what humans do when they are problem solving in the real world. It tells us that when an expert encounters a problem in the wild, their brain observes the situation in a changing environment and immediately pattern matches it against a collection of prototypes. If they recognise what they see as an example of a prototype — their brain immediately generates four things:
- A set of ‘expectancies’— When diagnosing a situation, experts will construct mental simulations of how the events have been evolving and will continue to evolve.
- A set of plausible goals — The expert would know what to prioritise in the moment, and what to defer to a latter time.
- A set of relevant cues — Experts know what to pay attention to; novices do not. Recognised prototypes come with a set of cues.
- An action script — Last, but not least, if the situation is typical, the expert would have a course of action immediately generated in their heads. If the situation is not typical, the expert’s brain would still generate a set of actions, but the expert would slow down to walk through each action step in their head.