If I am being honest, I was challenged pretty heavily by the readings this week. I am glad I have this challenge, however—I have not spent much time reading and assessing experiments in the past and now I have relevant material to read there in two different classes. I think this an important skill to develop.
Anyways, these two experiments (both done at Universities in the city of Pittsburgh!) investigated the manner people of various intellect interpret information and apply this information. In Chase Simon (1973), subjects with a range of chess expertise were told to arrange particular formations of chess pieces shown on one board, onto another board, both by memorization of side-by-side ‘glancing’. The working hypothesis involved investigation of “information chunks” and how these chunks are used by the subjects. In Chi et al (1981) subjects with a range of physics expertise are asked to categorize a handful of physics problems by their own criteria. This experiment looks to find differences in the ways ‘experts’ may approach physics problems and the ways ‘novices’ may.
I thought the way physics ‘experts’ grouped physics problems together by the underlying physical principles that govern the physics of the problem was very telling [as opposed to novices grouping problems by solution method or “surface details”]. Generally I consider myself a person of principle—find central themes or governing ideals and allow my actions to be directed by those principles. Although I say this referring to a broader realm than just physics problems, I really connected to this finding in the experiment; possibly there is something about spending so much time in a field that eventually one looks to the base concept, to the principle, before anything else. And following from that, one derives the nescessary actions to complete the task. Does this indicate that possibly the purest (and simplest) form of approaching Physics is identifying central and base principle before anything else?
Finding evidence of this idea was slightly more difficult in the Chase Simon piece, at least at face value. The information chunk gathering performance of masters appear to be stronger, in that chunks gathered are larger. Explaining “why” this occurs is not discussed but my proposal is that a call to the “principles of the Physics of Chess” gives chess experts better chunk recollection. Chess masters’ abilities to recreate the board positions of mid-game situations are greater because the ‘Physics of Chess’—meaning the natures of pieces (movement possiblities) and how that influences possible board positions—and their familiarity with those principles. The more novice player may look at the board and see the positions for their ‘face value’, while the expert may look at the board and see the positions as influenced by the principles of the game.
Also very quickly: I admired the digging done in the Chi et al piece. A long succession of experiments were done to modify and delve deeper into the working hypothesis. Any time I ever had to dig deeper into science fair projects I would get angry and ask my mother to continue the experiment for me.