Mechanisms of transfer
A central goal of cognitive science is to develop a general theory of transfer to explain how people use and apply their prior knowledge to solve new problems. Two transfer hypotheses were investigated in the current work. First, that there is no single transfer mechanism, but multiple ones. These mechanisms include (but are not limited to) analogy, knowledge compilation, and error-correction. Second, the particular profile (mix) of transfer processes depends on both (a) the knowledge actually present and how it is represented, and (b) the processing demands of the transfer task. These hypotheses were investigated in two laboratory training experiments. Results from experiment 1 support the hypothesis that there are multiple mechanisms of transfer that are distinct and identifiable. Each mechanism was shown to predict specific behavioral patterns of human performance under particular transfer conditions. The results from experiment 2 provide support for the hypothesis that people adaptively shift between transfer mechanisms depending on their prior knowledge and the characteristics of the task environment. A framework is proposed for the development of a general theory of transfer based on multiple mechanisms and implications of the theory are discussed for measuring and understanding knowledge transfer.