Fernand Gobet & Herbert A. Simon

Five Seconds or Sixty? Presentation Time in Expert Memory. Cognitive Science, in press



The template theory presented in Gobet and Simon (1996a, 1998) is based on the EPAM theory (Feigenbaum & Simon, 1984; Richman et al., 1995), including the numerical parameters that have been estimated in tests of the latter; and it therefore offers precise predictions for the timing of cognitive processes during the presentation and recall of chess positions. This paper describes the behavior of CHREST, a computer implementation of the template theory, in a task when the presentation time is systematically varied from one second to sixty seconds, on the recall of both game and random positions, and compares the model to human data. As predicted by the model, strong players are better than weak players with both types of positions. Their superiority with random positions is especially clear with long presentation times, but is also present after brief presentation times, although smaller in absolute value. CHREST accounts for the data, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Strong players' superiority with random positions is explained by the large number of chunks they hold in LTM. Strong players' high recall percentage with short presentation times is explained by the presence of templates, a special class of chunks. The model is compared to other theories of chess skill, which either cannot account for the superiority of Masters with random positions (models based on high-level descriptions and on levels of processing) or predict too strong a performance of Masters with random positions (long-term working memory).