Acquisition of a Problem-Solving Skill: Levels of Organization and Use of Working Memory

Richard A. Carlson, Boo Hock Khoo, Robin G. Yaure, Walter Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We examined the acquisition of a problem-solving skill at three levels of organization-strategy, subgoal, and operator-and investigated changes in temporary storage, manipulation of information, and coordination of multiple representations. 6 college students practiced minimizing the simulated cost of solving diagnostic problems with digital electronic circuits for approximately 50 hr (347 problems). Ss were tested on declarative knowledge, inferential skills at the subgoal level, and ability to solve problems during working memory tasks. The working memory tasks required retention of a preload, concurrent processing, or integration of displayed information with the contents of working memory. The data support the view that restructuring is goal sensitive and strategic. The results suggest a multiple-level analysis of skill acquisition in which practice allows strategic restructuring of cognitive processes at 3 levels of organization. Implications for models of skill acquisition and working memory are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-214
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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