Expert-Induced Amnesia

Have you ever watched a high-level performer in their element and wondered, how do they make it look so easy? Simply imagine an Olympic weightlifter snatching a barbell, a professional soccer player striking a ball, or a seasoned musician playing the guitar. Interestingly, if given the opportunity to ask about the complex steps to which they do what they do, many would likely respond, “I’m not actually sure.”

For starters, don’t fool yourself – there’s no shortcut to bypassing a deep body of deliberate work. Here’s the deal, though: expert-induced amnesia is an actual phenomenon, and it occurs when the area of our brain that we use to monitor a task pivots from explicit to implicit. More specifically, whereas the prefrontal cortex is activated when a novice is learning a skill, that control switches over time to areas such as the basal ganglia, which is partly responsible for touch and feel. 

As Matthew Syed addresses in his book Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success, the migration from the explicit to the implicit system of the brain has two crucial advantages.

1.It enables the expert player to integrate the various parts of a complex skill into one fluent whole (aka “motor chunking”), something that would be impossible at a conscious level because there are too many interconnecting variables for the conscious mind to handle.

2.It frees up attention to focus on higher-level aspects of the skill such as tactics and strategy.

How does all this relate to you? Well, know this: you also have the capacity to switch brain systems for particular tasks in your life, too. In fact, you’ve already demonstrated this! – consider driving or typing. 

The next time you find yourself frustrated with a particular weightlifting or gymnastics movement, I hope you’ll remember that the frustration surrounding the complexity of a skill won’t last forever. If only you’re willing to stay with it…

2/16/21 WOD


Complete 4 rounds for quality of:
8 Goblet Lateral Lunges (ea)
25 KB Swings

Then, AMRAP 10
8 Dbl KB Front Squats (44/26)
40m Dbl KB Front Rack Carry
6 Lateral Burpees Over the KB


Complete 3 rounds of the following for quality:
40 Alt High Knees
40 Alt Toe Touches

Then, complete 6 rounds for quality of:
30 Mountain Climbers
20 Toes-to-Hands
:60 Plank

Then, complete 6 rounds for time of:
400m Run
-Rest 2:00-


Weighted Pull Up

3 Rounds for Quality:
12-15 Kipping Pull Ups
8 Single Leg RDL, Left
8 Single Leg RDL, Right

1. Power Snatch + 2 OHS
2. 200m Run
3. Rest