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Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal
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How experts solve a novel problem in experimental design
Jan Maarten Schraagen a a Tno Institute for Human Factors IZF, The Netherlands. Online Publication Date: 01 April 1993
To cite this Article Schraagen, Jan Maarten(1993)'How experts solve a novel problem in experimental design',Cognitive Science: AMultidisciplinary Journal,17:2,285 — 309
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1207/s15516709cog1702_4 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15516709cog1702_4
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How ExpertsSolvea Novel Problem in Experimental Design
TN0 Institute for Human Factors IZF
Research onexpert-novice differences has mainly focused on how experts solve familiar problems. We know far less about the skills and knowledge used by experts when they are confronted with novel problems within their area of expertise. This article discusses a study in which verbal protocols were taken from subjects of various expertise designing an experiment in on area with which they
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were unfamiliar. The results showed that even when domain knowledge is lacking, experts solve a novel problem within their area of expertise by dividing the problem into a number of subproblems that ore solved in a specified order. The lack of domain knowledge is compensated for by using abstract knowledge structures and domain-specific heuristic strategies. However, the quality oftheir solutions is considerably lower than the quality attained by experts who were familiar with the type of problem to be solved. The results suggest that when experts are confronted with novel problems as compared with familiar problems, their form of reasoning remoins intact, but the content of their reasoning suffers due to lack of domain knowledge.
In the past 10 years, research onproblem solving has focused mainly on differences in the way experts and novices structure their knowledge (for reviews, see Glaser; 1984; Green0 & Simon, 1988; VanLehn, 1989). This research has clearly shown that the expert’s knowledge base is more abstract, more principled, and more organized for use than the novice’s knowledge base. However, several important questions have been neglected in theresearch just mentioned. In a review on problem solving and reasoning, Green0 and Simon (1988) mentioned, as one of the unanswered questions, the interactive development and utilization of general and specific skills. For instance, when confronted with novel problems within their domain of expertise, do experts resort to general strategies (or “weak methods”) and behave like
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