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ERP to chess stimuli reveal expert-novice differences in the amplitudes of N2 and P3 components


  • We thank the English Chess Federation for permission to use their website for recruitment, and all of our participants for their contribution to this research. We also thank the editor and referees for their careful attention to the manuscript and their detailed comments. Fernand Gobet is now at now at the Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK; Philippe Chassy is now at the Department of Psychology, Liverpool Hope University, UK.

Address correspondence to: Michael J. Wright, Centre for Cognition and Neuroimaging, Department of Psychology, Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK. E-mail:


ERP experiments were conducted to analyze the underlying neural events when chess players make simple judgments of a board position. Fourteen expert players and 14 age-matched novices viewed, for each of four tasks, 128 unique positions on a mini (4 × 4) chess board each presented for 0.5 s. The tasks were to respond: (a) if white king was in check, (b) if black knight was present, (c) if white king was not in check, and (d) if no black knight was present. Experts showed an enhanced N2 with check targets and a larger P3 with knight targets, relative to novices. Expert-novice differences in posterior N2 began as early as 240 ms on check-related searches. Results were consistent with the view that prolonged N2 components reflect matching of current perceptual input to memory, and thus are sensitive to experts' superior pattern recognition and memory retrieval of chunks.

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