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Experimental and Theoretical Psychology

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DFG Project ALFA

Title: "Analysis of learning processes in dealing with finite state automata". Supported by a grant from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft 1992-1996 (Fu 173/3) and "Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung NRW".

Responsible scientist: PD Dr. Joachim Funke.

Research associates: Dr. Axel Buchner (8/92-3/93), Dr. Burkhard Müller (4/93-1/96).


In this project theoretical assumptions regarding processes of chunking / composition in learning sequences of operating a device are tested by controlled experiments. The theory of finite automata is used to generate well defined classes of dynamic systems. Dealing with these systems can then be described as sequences of operations to move from an initial state to a goal state. An everyday example of such a situation is the use of a VCR (s. Project OPTIMANU). Acquisition of knowledge about correctly operating a device is conceptualized as forming chains of associations between a given state of the device, an operation, and a new state. The experiments were designed to test classical as well as modern assumptions about processes of associative learning respective acquisition of procedural and/or conceptual knowledge. In studies investigating processes of "horizontal chunking" the impact of perceptual grouping of operating elements on the transferability of knowledge was confirmed. Further aims of the project are investigations whether classical paradigms of memory research (recognition, free recall, cued recall) as well as indirect measures of memory can be used for this research domain. Moreover, a process model of operating an abstract automaton shall be specified in such detail that in can be run as a computer simulation.


  1. Müller, B. (1996). Zulässigkeitsurteile und Bediensequenzen: Der Einfluß zeitlicher Sukzessivität auf die Kompositionsbildung. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 204, 281-303. [Zusammenfassung]

  2. Müller, B., Goller, I., & Funke, J. (1996). Grammatiklernen und Serielles Reagieren: Zwei Paradigmen - ein Lernmechanismus? [Grammar learning and serial reaction time tasks: Two paradigms - one learning mechanism?] Zeitschrift für Experimentelle Psychologie, 43, 319-350. [Zusammenfassung]

  3. Müller, B., & Funke, J. (1995). Diskrete dynamische Systeme: Kompositionen höherer Ordnung bei Bediensequenzen. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 203, 153-172. [Zusammenfassung]

  4. Müller, B., Funke, J., & Buchner, A. (1994). Diskrete dynamische Systeme: Der Einfluß perzeptueller Strukturierung auf Komposition und Transfer von Wissen über Bediensequenzen. Zeitschrift für Experimentelle und Angewandte Psychologie, 41, 443-472. [Zusammenfassung]

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Last modified on 30.11.2001 by JF.