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Executive strategies determine the allocation of cognitive resources during problem-solving. Earlier research has suggested that people can adopt alternative strategies for solving particular problems. This Note examines an "opportunistic" model of executive strategies and evaluates some of its predictions for performance of an errand-planning task. Five experiments confirmed that (a) people can adopt different strategies for this task; (b) people can learn new strategies from explicit instruction or from experience; (c) problem characteristics can influence which strategy people adopt; and (d) adopted strategy interacts with problem characteristics to determine planning time and number and importance of planned errands. The results also suggest that some people have a proclivity toward adopting a particular strategy and resist adopting a new one. Implications of the results and desirable properties of the model are discussed.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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