Carnegie Mellon University

James Staszewski

James Staszewski

Adjunct Instructor-Staff Appointment, Psychology


Jim Staszewski’s research focuses on analyzing the cognitive mechanisms underlying experts’ extraordinary proficiency and applying the findings to help learners increase their proficiency. Three questions drive the research: (1) What knowledge and strategies produce exemplary human performance? (2) What underlying mechanisms build proficiency, and how do they do so? (3) How can a detailed understanding of expertise and its acquisition guide the design of instruction capable of facilitating novices’ skill development?

Recent and ongoing projects address all three questions through a single research strategy: performing information-processing analyses of expertise and using the findings as blueprints for instructional design and for assessment of the effects of the instruction. The research fits neither the usual conception of applied research nor of theoretical research; instead, it fits the category of “use-inspired research,” described in Stokes’ (1997) book, Pasteur’s Quadrant. Use-inspired research is simultaneously theoretically informative and practically important. It often arises in domains such as the ones studied in this research program, in which detailed theoretical analyses are needed before crucial practical challenges can be met, and the data that arise from evaluations of the practical applications provide valuable feedback for improving the theoretical analyses. This approach has characterized Staszewski’s projects on landmine detection, intelligence analysis, and medical instruction. Consistent with Simon’s (1990) tenet that understanding complex human cognition demands a detailed understanding of the task environments to which experts have adapted – and to which novices must adapt to gain proficiency -- studies of both experts who already are highly proficient and novices who are in the process of becoming proficient are carried out in field settings, such as Army training/testing sites. The fact that the programs developed to train land mine detection skills have been adopted force-wide by the U. S. Army attests to the practical utility of the research and the body of principles, theory, and methods basic researchers have developed to understand human expertise.


Retention of Landmine Detection Skill

Analysis and Assessment of Intelligence Analysis Skills

Analysis of the Landmine Detection and Clutter Discrimination Skills of an AN/ PSS-14

Evaluation of the US Army Engineer School’s Implementation of Landmine Detection    Training based on Expert Skill

Development of Virtual Reality Environment for Training Landmine Detection

Basic Studies of Visually-available Terrestrial Cues for Landmine Detection

Expertise in Medical Diagnosis


Staszewski, J. (1988). Skilled memory in expert mental calculation, In M. T. H. Chi,R. Glaser, & M. J. Farr (Eds.), The nature of expertise (pp. 71-128). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Ericsson, K. A. & Staszewski, J. (1989). Skilled memory and expertise: Mechanisms of exceptional performance. In Klahr, D. & Kotovsky, K. (Eds.),  Complex information processing: The impact of Herbert A. Simon (pp.235-267). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Staszewski, J. (1990). Exceptional memory: The influence of practice and knowledge on
the development of elaborative encoding strategies. In W. Schneider & F. E. Weinert (Eds.),
Interactions among aptitudes, strategies, and knowledge in cognitive performance
(pp. 252-285). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Delaney, P., Reder, L. M., Staszewski, J. & Ritter, F.  (1998).
The strategy specific nature of improvement: The power law applies by strategy
within task Psychological Science, 9 , 1-7.

Richman, H. B., Staszewski, J., & Simon, H. A. (1995). Simulation of expert memory using EPAM IV. Psychological Review, 102, 305-330.

Staszewski, J. (1999). Information processing analysis of human land mine detection skill In T. Broach, A. C. Dubey, R. E. Dugan, & J. Harvey, (Eds.), Detection and remediation technologies for mines and minelike targets IV, Proceedings of the Society for Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers 13th Annual Meeting, 3710,766-777.

Staszewski, J. (2004). Models of expertise as blueprints cognitive engineering: Applications to landmine detection. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 48, 458-462.

Staszewski, J., & Davison, A. (2000). Mine detection training based on expert skill In A. C. Dubey, J. F. Harvey, J. T. Broach, & R. E. Dugan, (Eds.), Detection and remediation technologies for mines and mine-like targets V, Proceedings of Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers 14th Annual Meeting, 4038, 90-101.

Davison, A., Staszewski, J., & Boxley, G. (2001). Improving soldier performance with the AN/PSS12. Engineer, 31, 17-21.

Staszewski, J. (2005). Wonderful, but not incomprehensible:  Multidisciplinary perspectives on Herbert A. Simon and his impact. PsyCRITIQUES, 50, Article 1.

Staszewski, J. (2006). Spatial thinking and the design of landmine detection training.
In G. A. Allen, (Ed.), Applied spatial cognition: From research to cognitive technology.
(pp. 231-265). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.