A graph-dynamic model of the power law of practice and the problem-solving fan-effect

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Science  21 Oct 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4877, pp. 414-416
DOI: 10.1126/science.3175664


Numerous human learning phenomena have been observed and captured by individual laws, but no unified theory of learning has succeeded in accounting for these observations. A theory and model are proposed that account for two of these phenomena: the power law of practice and the problem-solving fan-effect. The power law of practice states that the speed of performance of a task will improve as a power of the number of times that the task is performed. The power law resulting from two sorts of problem-solving changes, addition of operators to the problem-space graph and alterations in the decision procedure used to decide which operator to apply at a particular state, is empirically demonstrated. The model provides an analytic account for both of these sources of the power law. The model also predicts a problem-solving fan-effect, slowdown during practice caused by an increase in the difficulty of making useful decisions between possible paths, which is also found empirically.