The Role of a Mental Model in Learning to Operate a Device.
ARIZONA UNIV TUCSON DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
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This report presents two studies concerned with learning how to operate a simple control panel device, and how this learning is affected by understanding the internal structure of the device, which is a device model for the device. The first experiment compared two groups, one of which learned a set of operating procedures for the device by rote, and the other learned the device model before receiving the identical procedure training. The model group learned the procedures faster, and even after one week, retrained them better and executed them faster a typical effect size is a 20 improvement. Furthermore, the model group could simplify, or make more efficient, the procedures far more often then the rote group. The second study examined the hypothesis that the improvement is due to the model group being able to infer the procedures, which would lead to more rapid learning and better recall performance. The same group manipulation was used, but subjects inferred the procedures rather than learning them, and thought out loud while doing so. The model group based their reasoning on direct inferences from the device model, and inferred the correct procedures in almost the minimum amount of time.