Similarity is an important factor in transfer of training, but its precise role is not well understood. Is it overall fidelity or do some kinds of commonalities that matter more than others? It is proposed that the role of similarity in transfer can be clarified by a finer grained analysis. In this research, subjects learned a procedure for operating a simulated device and were asked to transfer the knowledge of the procedure to a new device. Two factors were varied: (1) the systematicity of the original device model (i.e. whether the subjects were given a coherent causal model or simply a set of operating procedures); and (2) the transparency of the mapping or degree of surface similarity between corresponding device components. The dependent measure was the number of trials to a criterion in the original and transfer devices. Results showed effects of both systematicity and transparency. Having a systematic mental model both facilitated learning of the initial device and promoted transfer to the target device. Transparency had strong effects on transfer subjects learned the new device faster when corresponding pairs of components were similar than when noncorresponding pairs were similar. These results suggest that there are at least two separate factors to consider in transfer the systematicity of the common domain model and the transparency of corresponding components.
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