Max Steuer (LSE): “Expertise in Well-Defined Problems and Expertise in Ill-Defined Problems in Economics”

This paper argues that while expertise in ill-defined economic problems benefits from some level of expertise in well-defined problems, the two kinds of expertise are not the same. Expertise in ill-defined problems requires different skills. It is important for applied economics to understand the relationship between ability in well-defined economic problems and ill-defined problems as many economic policy issues are ill-defined. In order to gain insight into this complex relationship, a review is undertaken of the cognitive psychology literature of problem solving and the literature of expertise more generally. This helps to illuminate some of the subtle issues present in the well-defined and ill-defined distinction. The core objective of the paper is to identify the salient characteristics of expertise in ill-defined economic problems. The results of this investigation have implications for disputes within the discipline of economics, for teaching, and most critically for economic policy.