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Transfer Functions and Learning Curves: The Use of Ability Constructs in the Study of Human Learning

Bunderson, C. Victor
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Ability, Factor Analysis, Learning Theories, Performance Factors, Transfer of Training, Tucker, Ledyard R


There has been increased interest in recent years in the potential of factors of human ability as constructs in psychological theory. The argument in reference to theory in learning and thinking is that perceptual, memory, and intellectual factors have great cross-situational applicability, are univocal measures of what can be thought of as primary dimensions along which individuals differ and have constitutive meaning by virtue of construct validity which they possess in relation to some model of human intellect. This paper presents a procedure which unites in one analysis factor test variables and experimental variables. The procedure involves a modification of Ferguson's notion of "transfer functions" combined with Ledyard Tucker's method for determining "generalized learning curves" by factor analysis. the procedure was applied to data from a set of concept problems, producing interesting results. Several predictions based on the definitions of ability factors were borne out, and transfer functions associated with tests included in the study for exploratory purposes displayed interesting characteristics. It was concluded that the procedure could be quite fruitful and was worth pursuing further.

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