The Answers: Question 7

7. Imagine a world-class athlete, long retired and now a healthy but frail senior citizen. Considering the model of expertise described in Malcolm Gladwell’s article, The Physical Genius, do you believe that athlete is still a physical genius? Why, or why not? [5]

Gladwell’s New Yorker article on physical genius uses case studies to popularize some key findings of expertise research. It emphasizes that accomplished athletes, musicians and surgeons are not only outstanding at the physical aspects of their work, but also at the informational aspects such as detecting patterns and visualizing outcomes. For full marks on this question, I would expect a student to demonstrate recall of the article and an understanding of that insight that expertise has both performance and information components. I would want them to mention the roles of failure, practice and visualization, and how expertise does not usually transfer across domains. Some students will argue that physical genius lapses with the physical capacity to perform the skill, and some will take the position that elderly athletes may still have extraordinary insights into the game they can no longer play. So long as students support their position logically, I would accept either argument.


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