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Spectral Analysis and the Study of Individual Differences in the Performance of Routine, Repetitive Tasks

Abelson, Robert P
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Office of Naval Research, Experimental Psychology, Individual Differences, Performance, Repetition Tasks, Spectral Analysis, Time-Series Analysis


Spectral analysis as an analytical tool was applied to previous psychological data in one case, to a study of mental blocking, and in another, to a study of serial patterns of response in an auditory discrimination. In both cases, spectral analysis led to a modification and clarification of the conclusions that had been reached by the previous authors. Spectral analysis was then applied to the experimental data of the present paper. The experimental task was that of jabbing a stylus repeatedly at a target line or lines. The deviations of the jabs from a reference line were measured in serial order, and the series were then subjected to a spectral analysis. Thirty-three subjects were tested on five variations of the main task. Fifteen of the subjects were retested a month later. Task variations proved unimportant, but reliable individual differences were found in three measures, two of which did not depend on spectral analysis and one of which did. The three measures were related to general personality characteristics, by means of an inductive process.

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