Predicting individual differences in complex skill acquisition: Dynamics of ability determinants

Substantial controversy exists about ability determinants of individual differences in performance during and subsequent to skill acquisition. This investigation addresses the controversy. An information-processing examination of ability-performance relations during complex task acquisition is described. Included are ability testing (including general, reasoning, spatial, perceptual speed, and perceptual/psychomotor abilities) and skill acquisition over practice on the terminal radar approach controller simulation. Results validate and extend Ackerman’s (1988) theory of cognitive ability determinants of individual differences in skill acquisition. Benefits of ability component and task component analyses over global analyses of ability-skill relations are demonstrated. Implications are discussed for selection instruments to predict air traffic controller success and for other tasks with inconsistent information-processing demands.