Mental Procedures in Real-Life Tasks: A Case of Electronic Trouble Shooting

Jens Rasmussen, A. Jensen

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    The mental procedures used by skilled electronics repair men in their
    normal working environment have been studied by analysis of verbal protocols.
    The procedures found are organized as a search through a system which is
    viewed as a hierarchy of subunits. The general structure of the search can be
    broken down into a sequence of recurrent search routines. Basically different
    typos of such routines are found with great differences in respect to the number
    of observations needed and the complexity of the mental data processing
    involved. They also differ greatly with respect to the depth of knowledge of the
    internal functioning of the system used by the repair men.
    The records demonstrate a great ability by the men to conduct the search by
    general routines mostly depending upon their general professional background,
    and a preference for rapid streams of simple decisions giving good or bad judgments regard less of whether observations are informationally redundant or not. Seen from the viewpoint of information economy, the procedures are inefficient, but if the men are supposed to minimize the time spent ill the task and the mental load involved, the procedures are very rational. The records indicate that the men have great confidence in the experience that the general routines will ultimately lead them to the fault. In cases where they are unsuccessful, there seems to be a fixation, resulting in a tendency to rely on repetitions, rather than to generate specific procedures based upon reasoning related to the functioning of the specific system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)293-307
    Number of pages18
    Publication statusPublished - 1974


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