Individual differences in skill learning: An integration of psychometric and information processing perspectives

In this article, I reexamine the nature of individual differences in novel and practiced performance on skill learning tasks from an information processing framework that incorporates concepts derived from automatic and controlled information processing and attentional resources perspectives. I also use developments in quantitative analysis procedures to approach previous data in a single, unbiased framework for evaluation. Two major sources of data and discussion are reanalyzed and critically evaluated. One source concerns the changes in interindividual between-subjects variability with task practice. The other main source of data and theory pertains to associations between intellectual abilities and task performance during skill acquisition. Early studies of practice and variability yielded mixed results regarding the convergence or divergence of individual differences with practice. Other studies regarding intelligence and skill learning indicated small or trivial correlations between individual differences in intelligence and “gain” scores. More recent studies indicated small correlations between performance measures on skill learning tasks and standard intellectual and cognitive ability measures, as well as increasing amounts of task-specific variance over learning trials. On the basis of this reanalysis and reexamination, these data confirm the proposition that individuals converge on performance as tasks become less dependent on attentional resources with practice. Further, it is determined that when appropriate methodological techniques are used and crucial task characteristics are taken into account, intellectual abilities play a substantial part in determining individual differences in skill learning.