Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Carnegie Mellon University


College of Humanities & Social Sciences

First Advisor

John R. Anderson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jill H. Larkin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Herbert A. Simon, Ph.D.


cognitive, psychology, cognitive modeling, ACT-R, examples, memory, knowledge

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology


This dissertation examines the way people acquire procedures from examples, and provides a computational model of the results. In four experiments, people learned an analog of algebra. For each experiment, the initial know ledge that people had of the task was varied. In two experiments (Experiments 1 and 3), the syntactic know ledge that people had concerning the task w as manipulated. The knowledge of syntax that participants had, particularly the ability to correctly parse the character string, was found to be a major determiner in the way participants acquired the rules. Experiment 2 explicitly manipulated participant's awareness as to how the task was related to their prior knowledge of algebra, with the finding that another major determiner of how the participants learned the task resting on how much of the task they can map to algebra. All three of these experiments examined the rule generalization behavior of the participants, with a fourth experiment specifically designed to examine this issue. The less syntactic and other declarative knowledge that participants had, the less general their rules. These findings, that people can learn from examples but that this learning is tempered by their additional declarative knowledge, are captured by an ACT-R model (Anderson, 1993).



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.