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Experimental and Theoretical Psychology

Home Page > Research > EC Project KAUDYTE > MacFAUST Homepage

MacFAUST Homepage

This is the Homepage of MacFAUST (= Macintosh Finite Automata Simulation Tool), a program that is designed to create and edit discrete dynamic systems. The formal background is based on the theory of finite state automata. MacFAUST also controls experiments investigating human learning in interacting with discrete dynamic systems. Several theoretically well-founded methods of knowledge assessment are implemented, and all data (including a person´s exploratory behavior) are logged.

MacFAUST has proven to be a very useful tool for psychological research on learning in dynamic task environments in several experiments. MacFAUST is an easy-to-use, completely menu-driven program that runs on Apple Macintosh computers. Copies of the program may be requested from Joachim Funke (make sure to have MacOS as your operating system).

Why should one use finite state automata in problem solving research?

MacFAUST has been designed as a tool for researchers interested in how people learn and later use their knowledge in interacting with complex dynamic systems. There is a large diversity of systems currently used in this research domain. The problem with most of these systems is that they do not have a homogeneous theoretical background to make them comparable or to allow researchers to manipulate precisely defined properties of the task.

Also, many researchers use diagnostic procedures that are idiosyncratic to the task and have no or no clear connection to the "classical" inventory of cognitive psychological methods of knowledge assessment. There are a number of other problems that have been outlined elsewhere (Buchner, & Funke, 1993; Funke, & Buchner, 1992) and will not be repeated here. The situation is different with the discrete dynamic systems used here. These systems have the following (plus some more) advantages:

  • They are based on a homogeneous formal background. More precisely, the theory of finite automata is used to describe their properties (e.g., Albert, & Ottmann, 1983; Hopcroft, & Ullmann, 1979; Salomaa, 1985).
  • They make use of diagnostic measures that have a clear connection to "classical" measures of knowledge within experimental psychology: recognition tests and verification tasks.
  • They provide a criterion for optimal performance. Therefore, control performance can be assessed without complication. At any given state of the system it is possible to determine if there is a sequence of interventions that leads to a defined goals state and how many interventions are required as a minimum.

For more details you are again refered to the papers mentioned above. Having a homogeneous formal background for describing many different dynamic systems makes it possible to create classes of formally well-defined systems that can easily be related to each other. MacFAUST is a tool to do exactly that. In other words, MacFAUST is an all-purpose discrete system generator. New discrete systems may be created, and existing ones may be modified according to the researcher´s needs. This manual describes how to do that.

In addition, MacFAUST can control experiments exploring the systems that have been created by the program. This manual describes how to do that also. Subjects´ data are recorded and stored in a text file so they can be conveniently used for data analysis. However, the manual cannot describe all the details of what possibilities the researcher has in analyzing the data produced by MacFAUST. For more details the reader is therefore again refered to existing literature describing experiments with MacFAUST (Buchner, & Funke, 1991, 1993; Buchner, Funke, Schmitt, & Nikelowski, 1990).

A copy of MacFAUST may be obtained from the authors for research purposes. Commercial distribution is prohibited.

Published experiments which used MacFAUST

    Buchner, A., & Funke, J. (1991). Transfer of associations in finite state automata. Berichte aus dem Psychologischen Institut der Universität Bonn, 17 (2).

    Buchner, A., & Funke, J. (1993). Finite state automata: Dynamic task environments in problem solving research. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 46A, 83-118.

    Buchner, A., Funke, J., Nikelowski, B. & Schmitt, L. (1990). External support systems for a dynamic task environment: Results from two experiments on memory and evaluation aids. Berichte aus dem Psychologischen Institut der Universität Bonn, 16 (5).

MacFAUST Manual

The MacFAUST software and the accompanying MacFAUST manual were first published in 1991 as a report for the EC-funded research project called KAUDYTE:

Buchner, A., Schmitt, L., Funke, J. & Nikelowski, B. (1991). MacFAUST: Program for constructing finite automata as instruments in problem solving research. Manual. Berichte aus dem Psychologischen Institut der Universität Bonn, 17 (3).

The MacFAUST manual does also exist as a PDF-File (MacFAUST_Manual.pdf, ca. 293 KB) and can be seen via Acrobat Reader.

Hint: Acrobat-Reader software is available free of charge under

Further work

A construction and presentation tool running under Windows is currently under preparation for the national PISA program. The programming work is done by "Stefan Wagener".

Other FSA links

The link leads to a paper "FSA Utilities: A Toolbox to Manipulate Finite-state Automata" by Gertjan van Noord (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
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Last modified on 05.04.2008 by JF.