The Nature of Intelligence

By Lauren B. Resnick | Go to book overview

5 Identifying Basic Abilities Underlying Intelligent Performance of Complex Tasks

Herbert A. Simon Carnegie-Mellon University

This chapter is listed under the heading of "computer simulation approaches in the study of intelligence." Another section of the book is labelled "basic processes in intelligence." This division of labor is only pragmatic, for computer simulation of intelligence is simply a particular technique for identifying and studying basic processes in intelligence.

In fact, this chapter is not restricted to simulation techniques either, because these techniques are used most profitably in close conjunction with experiementation and with observation of human behavior. A simulation is just one phase in a cycle of observing and experimenting, building and testing theories. The simulation is both a formal expression of the theory and a means of inferring consequences that can be tested empirically.


INTELLIGENT PERFORMANCE

"Intelligent performance of complex tasks" means doing the tasks correctly, with little or no waste motion--with few or no mistakes or detours along the way. Let us jump to the end of the story, and suppose that we had a valid process theory for performance of a complex task, that is, a complete model describing the processes that are used to perform the task, and the way those processes are organized. For completeness, the model would also have to include a description of the knowledge, stored in memory, that was drawn upon for the task performance, and the way that knowledge was represented in memory so as to be available to the processes. If the model described the processes in sufficient detail, then we might say that we had identified the basic abilities underlying performance of that task. In this world view, "basic abilities" may take the form of knowledge, or processes, or both.

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