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Mental Representation of Circuit Diagrams: Individual Differences in Procedural Knowledge.

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Annual rept.,

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This work is concerned with the knowledge that electronics technicians possess of electronic equipment, and more generally, with how people operate in tasks that draw upon a complex spatial symbolic knowledge base. A technicians knowledge base is postulated to consist of three types of related knowledge structuralfunctional knowledge, which pertains to the actual configuration of a circuit and the role that its components play in the operation of the device prototypical knowledge, which pertains to the general properties common to circuits of a given type and procedural knowledge, which pertains to the way that a circuit can be modified and to the interaction among knowledge elements of all three types of knowledge. The present report focuses on an experiment conducted to investigate individual differences in procedural knowledge. Novice and expert subjects performed tasks in which they had to either locate and correct an error in a circuit, change the function of a circuit, or complete a missing segment in a circuit. On all tasks, experts were found to be far more accurate than novices but more important, experts were classified -- on the basis of verbal protocols -- to be considerably more systematic, orderly and directed in their problem solving strategies. The productive procedures used by experts were then translated into specific guidelines toward improving circuit troubleshooting, and the effectiveness of these guidelines will be evaluated in a subsequent experiment. The results of this research program should help in providing guidelines for training electronic technicians to better understand and troubleshoot complex equipment.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Psychology

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