Induction, representation, and utilization processes in the learning and performance of serial patterns



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Any account of serial behavior must consider a number of separate processes which occur between the time an individual is first exposed to a series of events and the time at which he is able to reproduce the event series. Greeno and Simon (1974) have delineated three processes which are prerequisite to the performance of serial tasksi induction of the underlying pattern in a sequence of events, representation and storage of the pattern in memory, and utilization of the stored information in production of the sequence. Research to date has focused on the induction and representation processes. No study has attempted to separate effects due to induction, representation, and output strategies. Separate tasks were used to examine the three processes in the learning and performance of serial spatial patterns. An anticipation task in which subjects predicted elements of the patterns revealed the processes of induction and the initial form of representation. Next, subjects produced the pattern from beginning to end. In this production task the process by which stored information is utilized is particularly salient. Finally, the form of representation at the end of the experiment was assessed by a task in which the subject produced a single element at random points in the sequence in response to a cue. Induction of the patterns implicit in the sequences investigated was accomplished by strategies which were for some pattern types hierarchical, other pattern types linear, and still other pattern types a combination of hierarchical and linear. The description of sequences by generation schemes not used in constructing the patterns proved useful as a method by which alternative induction schemes were suggested. Initial representation of sequences was of a form which reflected the induction schemes used in learning the patterns. Later representations differed from initial representations. Representation at a particular point in time was a function of type of pattern implicit in the sequence and experience in interacting with the sequence. The process by which stored information was utilized could have been of two forms: a push-down interpretive process, as proposed by Greeno and Simon (1974), or an alternative hierarchical mechanism. Each accounted equally well for the results of the study.