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Ohio State University


The exercise of judgment is not only essential to the practice of disciplines such as law, medicine and accounting, but is also what distinguishes these domains as professions (Boritz, Gaber & Lemon, 1987, cited in Gibbins & Mason, 1988). Recent advances in cognitive psychology research have given an impetus to research focusing on the nature of professional judgment, expert-novice cognition, heuristics and biases in decision making as well as decision strategies, the acquisition of knowledge and the effects of experience, and the development of expert/decision support systems (Ashton, 1982a; Smith & Kida, 1991; Chi, Glaser & Farr, 1988). The central importance of experience and the interaction of judgment with professional expertise and standards is evident from works devoted to explicating "professional judgment" in medicine (Dowie & Elstein, 1988) and accounting (Gibbins & Mason, 1988). Internally, exponential growth in knowledge and burgeoning technology have made it extremely difficult for "experts" to keep abreast of all new developments; externally, rising public expectations and lawsuits have significantly altered the institutional and legal contexts within which professional-client relations occur (Dowie & Elstein, 1988). In an environment calling for greater accountability for professional judgments, the basis for the exercise of professional judgment is increasingly coming under scrutiny: Experts are being compelled 1 2 to disclose how they reached their conclusions, what reasoning they employed, what evidence they relied upon (Simon, 1977).

It is imperative that professional judgment and decision making be actively studied, for we cannot proceed to improve a process unless we first understand it (Hogarth, 1991; Ashton, 1982b). With the appropriate strategy, methods, and techniques, theories from cognitive science can be usefully integrated with the applied theory of any practicing profession to the benefit of both disciplines (Skipper, Diers, & Leonard, 1967; Smith & Kida, 1991; Ashton, Kleinmuntz, Sullivan & Tomassini, 1988). Given the preponderance of professional judgment across domains, such research will likely enable us to understand the nature of expertise and thus provide the foundation for developing a general theory of expertise.


Dissertation is made available with the permission of the author.