Fernand Gobet

A pattern-recognition theory of search in expert problem solving. Thinking and Reasoning, 3, 291-313.



Understanding how look-ahead search and pattern recognition interact is one of the important research questions in the study of expert problem-solving. This paper examines the implications of the template theory (Gobet & Simon, 1996a), a recent theory of expert memory, on the theory of problem solving in chess. Templates are "chunks" (Chase & Simon, 1973) that have evolved into more complex data structures and that possess slots allowing values to be encoded rapidly. Templates may facilitate search in three ways: (a) by allowing information to be stored into LTM rapidly; (b) by allowing a search in the template space in addition to a search in the move space; and (c) by compensating loss in the "mind's eye" due to interference and decay. A computer model implementing the main ideas of the theory is presented, and simulations of its search behaviour are discussed. The template theory accounts for the slight skill difference in average depth of search found in chess players, as well as for other empirical data.