Determinants of individual differences during skill acquisition: Cognitive abilities and information processing

An integrative theory that links general models of skill acquisition with ability determinants of individual differences in performance is presented. Three major patterns of individual differences during skill acquisition are considered: changes in between-subjects variability, the simplex pattern of trial intercorrelations, and changing ability-performance correlations with practice. In addition to a review of previous theory and data, eight experimental manipulations are used to evaluate the cognitive ability demands associated with different levels of information-processing complexity and consistency. Subjects practiced category word search, spatial figure, and choice reaction time tasks over several hundred trials of task practice. An air traffic controller simulation was used to show generalization to a complex task. Examinations of practice-related between-subjects variance changes and ability-performance correlations are used to demonstrate that an equivalence exists between three broad phases of skill acquisition and three cognitive-intellectual determinants of individual differences.