The sugar production factory—A dynamic decision task

  • Faison P. Gibson


This article describes the Sugar Production Factor and its structural equivalent, the Personal Interaction task. These are two simple, individual dynamic decision-making tasks in which subjects make interdependent decisions to reach a goal, and receive feedback on the outcome of their efforts along the way. An important result from human learning experiments using these two tasks and their variants is that subjects reliably improve their ability to reach the goal over a moderate number of training trials (40–90) but do not show consistent improvement in other measures of task knowledge. These other measures focus on subjects' ability to accurately predict the task environment's response to their actions and subjects' ability to produce useful heuristics. This pattern of results runs counter to the idea that decision makers' performance in dynamic decision tasks depends critically on the predictive accuracy their internal models of the task environment. Variants of both tasks have been used to manipulate this pattern of results and explore more deeply the nature of the internal models that subjects form of the task environment. These variants are discussed in the context of other relevant findings in the dynamic decision making literature.

Key words

dynamic decision making 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. BartoA.G., BradtkeS.J., and SinghS.P. (1995), “Learning to act using real-time dynamic programming,”Artificial Intelligence, 72, pp. 81–138.Google Scholar
  2. BartoA.G., SuttonR.S., and C.J.C.H.Watkins (1989), “Learning and sequential decision making,” (Technical Report COINS 89–95), Amherst: University of Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  3. BerryD.C. (1991), “The role of action in implicit learning,”Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43 A(4), pp. 881–906.Google Scholar
  4. BerryD.C., and BroadbentD.E. (1984), “On the relationship between task performance and associated verbalizable knowledge,”Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 36A, pp. 209–231.Google Scholar
  5. BerryD.C., and BroadbentD.E. (1987), “The combination of explicit and implicit learning processes in task control,”Psychological Research, 49, pp. 7–15.Google Scholar
  6. BerryD.C., and BroadbentD.E. (1988), “Interactive tasks and the implicit-explicit distinction,”British Journal of Psychology, 79, 251–272.Google Scholar
  7. Berry, D.C. and Dienes, Z. (1993),Implicit Learning: Theoretical and Empirical Issues. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  8. BrehmerB. (1990), “Strategies in real-time, dynamic decision making. In R.Hogarth (Ed.),Insights from Decision Making. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. BrehmerB. (1992), “Dynamic decision making: Human control of complex systems,”Acta Psychologica, 81, pp. 211–241.Google Scholar
  10. BrehmerB. (1995), “Feedback delays in complex dynamic decision tasks,” In P.Frensch, and J.Funke (Eds.),Complex Problem Solving: The European Perspective. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  11. BuchnerA., FunkeJ., and BerryD.C. (1995), “Negative correlations between control performance and verbalizeable knowledge: Indicators for implicit learning in process control tasks,”Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 48 A(1), pp. 166–187.Google Scholar
  12. DavisF.D., and KottemanJ.E. (1995), “Determinants of decision rule use in a production planning task,”Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 64(2), pp. 145–157.Google Scholar
  13. DiehlE., and StermanJ.D. (1995), “Effects of feedback complexity on dynamic decision making,”Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 62(2), pp. 198–215.Google Scholar
  14. Dienes, Z. (1990),Implicit Concept Formation. Ph.D. thesis, University of Oxford.Google Scholar
  15. Dienes, Z., and Fahey, R. (1994),The Role of Implicit Memory in Controlling Dynamic System. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  16. DienesZ., and FaheyR. (1995), “Role of specific instances in controlling a dynamic system,”Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21 (4), pp 1–15.Google Scholar
  17. EdwardsW. (1962), “Dynamic decision theory and probabilistic information processing,”Human Factors, 4, pp. 59–73.Google Scholar
  18. FunkeJ. (1992), “Dealing with dynamic systems: Research strategy, diagnostic approach, and experimental results,”The German Journal of Psychology, 16(1), pp. 24–43.Google Scholar
  19. GibsonF.P., and PlautD.C. (1995), “A connectionist formulation of learning in dynamic decision-making tasks,”Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 512–517). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  20. HayesN.A., and BroadbentD.E. (1988), “Two modes of learning for interactive tasks,”Cognition, 28(28), pp. 249–276.Google Scholar
  21. HogarthR.M. (1981), “Beyond discrete biases: Functional and dysfunctional aspects of judgmental heuristics,”Psychological Bulletin, 90, pp. 197–217.Google Scholar
  22. KleinmuntzD.N. (1993), “Information processing and misperceptions of the implications of feedback in dynamic decision making,”System Dynamics Review, 9(3), pp. 223–237.Google Scholar
  23. KleinmuntzD.N., and ThomasJ.B. (1987), “The value of action and inference in dynamic decision making,”Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 39, pp. 341–364.Google Scholar
  24. LeeF.J., AndersonJ.R., and MatessaM.P. (1995), “Components of dynamic skill acquisition,”Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, (pp. 506–511). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  25. MarescauxP.-J., LucF., and KarnasG. (1989), “Modes d'apprentissage selective et non-selective et connaissances acquises au controle d'un processus: Évaluation d'un mod eme simulé,”Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive Europénne, 9, pp. 239–264.Google Scholar
  26. McGeorgeP. and BurtonA.M. (1989), “The effect of concurrent verbalization on performance in a dynamic systems task,”British Journal of Psychology, 80, pp. 455–465.Google Scholar
  27. PaichM. and StermanJ.D. (1993), “Boom, bust, and failures to learn in experimental markets,”Management Science, 39(12), pp. 1439–1458.Google Scholar
  28. RapoportA., (1975) “Research paradigms for studying dynamic decision behavior,” In D.Wendt and C.Vlek (Eds.),Utility, Probability, and Human Decision Making. Dordrecht-Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  29. RichardsonG.P. and RohrbaughJ. (1990), “Decision making in dynamic environments: Exploring judgments in a system dynamics model-based game,” In K.Borcherding, O.I.Larichev and D.M.Messick (Eds.),Contemporary Issues in Decision Making, (pp. 463–472). North-Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.Google Scholar
  30. SandersonP.M. (1990),Implicit and Explicit Control of a Dynamic Task: Empirical and Conceptual Issues (Technical Report EPRL-90–02). Urbana, IL 61801: Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Google Scholar
  31. SenguptaK. and Abdel-HamidT.K. (1993), “Alternative conceptions of feedback in dynamic decision environments: An experimental investigation,”Management Science, 39(4), 411–428.Google Scholar
  32. SquireL.R. and FrambachM. (1990), “Cognitive learning in amnesia,”Psychobiology, 18(1), 109–117.Google Scholar
  33. StanleyW.B., MathewsR.C., BussR.R., and Kotler-CopeS. (1989), “Insight without awareness: On the interaction of verbalization, instruction, and practice in a simulated process control task,”Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 41A(3), pp. 553–577.Google Scholar
  34. StermanJ.D. (1989a), “Misperceptions of feedback in dynamic decision making,”Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 43, pp. 301–335.Google Scholar
  35. StermanJ.D. (1989b), “Modeling managerial behavior: Misperceptions of feedback in a dynamic decision making experiment,”Management Science, 35(3), pp. 321–339.Google Scholar
  36. Te'eniD. (1991), “Feedback in DSS as a source of control: Experiments with the timing of feedback,”Decision Sciences, 22, pp. 644–655.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Faison P. Gibson
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of Industrial AdministrationCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh

Personalised recommendations