Human Processing of Knowledge from Texts

Acquisition, Integration and Reasoning

by Perry W. Thorndyke, Barbara Hayes-Roth, Susan Knobel, James R. Miller, Carol Walker

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Decisionmakers must frequently assimilate a large number of facts from several documents, organize related facts in memory, and reason using the acquired knowledge. Nine experiments investigated how people learn and retain knowledge in texts and perform inferential reasoning (using several facts to generate or verify conclusions). Individual experiments examined the influence of text structure, the learnability of individual facts, the acquisition of new knowledge conforming to a previously learned structure, the integration of related but separately learned facts in memory, search and verification proceses for inferential reasoning, and techniques for improving the organization of information in memory. Results are presented in the context of models for knowledge representation and processing. A set of principles for improving human learning are derived, including text formats that facilitate knowledge acquisition and integration.

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