Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

John Flach (Committee Member), Joe Houpt (Committee Member), David LaHuis (Committee Member), Valarie Shalin (Advisor)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Task-specific performance measures informed by incomplete theories of expertise do not capture the full range of domain-relevant behaviors, threatening content validity. Surgery is a particularly good example of a domain that has neglected cognitive accounts of performance in favor of task-specific measures of technical skill and experience-based definitions of expertise. Likewise, cognitive accounts of performance tend to neglect skilled performance, including the interaction between automaticity and cognitive control. The present study merges cognition and psychometrics in the context of a surgical task. I analyzed archival surgical performance data from a study of surgical training, including video of human cadaver procedures, think-aloud, self-ratings, and performance evaluations. This rich data set provided a unique opportunity to address both theoretical and methodological issues within expertise research, such as the ability of generalizable constructs to account for task-specific performance measures, the cognitive penetrability of skilled performance, the contribution of experience to the development of expertise, and the impact of evaluator cognition on performance ratings. My analyses indicate that general constructs related to goal establishment and goal enactment can account for task-specific performance metrics, highlighting the cognitive penetrability of skilled performance in the process. My analyses also call into question the necessity of experience in the development of expertise, and illustrate the influence of the evaluators on performance ratings. Accounting for these elements will strengthen theories of performance and subsequently help promote measures of performance that will generalize within a domain rather than emphasize any particular task.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Psychology

Year Degree Awarded