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Psychology of Chess

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 11:47 am
by Kevin Thurlow
As the Book Reviews section has disappeared, I'll mention it here.

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... y_of_Chess

By Fernand Gobet, described as "Professor of Decision Making and Expertise at the University of Liverpool, UK"

I didn't think that was a thing, (the job title, not the university), but a quick search showed it was. He is a proper chess player so I'm sure it's worth a read. Waterstones in Bath stocked it as well.

It's one of a series, some of the titles are pretty exotic. " The Psychology of Everything is a series of books which debunk the myths
and pseudo-science surrounding some of life’s biggest questions. " They have books on vampires, gender, driving, gardening, fashion, climate change (OK that has pseudo-science). I'll try to get around to reading them all.

Re: Psychology of Chess

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 12:12 pm
by JustinHorton
I have a copy, it's on my summer reading list. I was recommended it by Dr Andrew McGettigan, who some forum readers may recall wrote a series of articles on the World Championship match for the London Review of Books blog.

Re: Psychology of Chess

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 2:07 pm
by Richard James
Andrew McGettigan also recommended it to me. Some of us have also heard Fernand Gobet speaking at the London Chess Conference.

Here's my take on the book.

Re: Psychology of Chess

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 6:38 pm
by Jonathan Bryant
Gobet is a legit researcher. I’ve not read the book but I have read a couple of his published journal articles.

What he has to say will be worth reading. The antithesis of the bluster and bull**it approach favoured by too many chess commentators

Re: Psychology of Chess

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 1:04 pm
by David Robertson
I've read this now.

It's short (114pp); intelligent; accessible to the general reader; covers the bases; and is appropriately measured in its treatment of evidence. There's a short but useful reading list-cum-bibliography at the end. Shortcomings? It's not meant to be an academic monograph, but all the same, this reader would have welcomed some footnote references to further reading. Also, brevity is not always a virtue: several times Gobet wins my attention, but the narrative tails off where an expansion would have been helpful. OK, I'm looking for a different kind of book, maybe Gobet's own on expertise

Verdict? Recommended. The early chapters will be familiar to those of us old enough and sufficiently well-read to recall De Groot's work from the 1970s & 1980s. Equally, experienced players will have read, or know of, the classical works in the field by Euwe, Fine, Krogius, and Kotov. Hence, the later chapters held more interest for me where Gobet addresses ongoing contemporary debates, though not entirely adequately (in this type of book). He turns an academic's cold eye on the evidence for chess as a 'magic bullet'. Claims for the beneficial impact of chess on dementia, or on school performance, are exposed as hyperbole and groundless self-serving by chess enthusiasts. Where evidence exists (usually, it doesn't), it is often weak/incomplete, or anecdotal, or fails to meet rudimentary scientific standards. On gender differences, what's known is cited, but it's not much - jury remains out for now. The material on decision-making, expertise and errors caught the attention of this reader, but disappointed too. So much is not yet understood. And what we think we know is poorly understood.

This latter stuff is where I might now go for further reading. Chess in itself isn't that important. But if it can be treated as a proxy for generalised cognitive information-processing, decision-making and perception, then it becomes a useful test-bed for wider exploration. Whether psychologists like Gobet will make conclusive progress in this field, I have my doubts. I suspect we will learn far more from developments in neuroscience. Alas, we may need to wait decades yet

Re: Psychology of Chess

Posted: Thu May 23, 2019 1:12 pm
by Mick Norris
David Robertson wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 1:04 pm
Claims for the beneficial impact of chess on dementia, or on school performance, are exposed as hyperbole and groundless self-serving by chess enthusiasts. Where evidence exists (usually, it doesn't), it is often weak/incomplete, or anecdotal, or fails to meet rudimentary scientific standards.
Which is no surprise to many of us, but will come as a surprise to those peddling the myths maybe (or alternatively, in the "post-truth" world, they simply won't care)