Problem Solving in a Natural Task as a Function of Experience
Interim rept. Jul 1986-Jul 1087
GEORGIA INST OF TECH ATLANTA SCHOOL OF INFORMATION AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
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This research note investigates the effects of experience on problem solving behavior and the knowledge base of workers in an applied setting -- that of automobile mechanics. The automobile is a highly complex system with many interconnected subsystems. Problem descriptions presented to a mechanic who needs to diagnose a car are usually quite sketchy, however. Novices are less able than experts to diagnose any but the most obvious problems. This research note concerns itself with identifying the qualitative differences between mechanics with different levels of expertise. In this research note, three student mechanics are observed in a post-secondary technical school, each at a different level of expertise, diagnosing six problems introduced into cars in the school. Collected protocols are then analyzed to find the knowledge and strategies used in solving each problem. Series of protocols for each student were also analyzed to find the changes in knowledge and strategies used in solving later problems as compared to earlier problems. Differences were seen in both the knowledge used by the subjects and their general approach to diagnosis. As a result of experience, the student mechanics seemed to improve in three areas 1 their knowledge of the relationships between symptoms and possible failures was augmented, 2 their causal models of the cars systems were augmented, and 3 their general troubleshooting procedures and decision rules were much improved. Keywords Cognitive psychology.