Memory & Cognition

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 422–433 | Cite as

Problem solving and the development of abstract categories in programming languages

  • Beth Adelson


The question of how novice and expert computer programmers represent and use programming concepts is addressed here. Lines of programming code forming three complete programs were presented one at a time and in random order in a multitrial free recall procedure. Qualitative and quantitative measures revealed clear but different subjective organization in the two groups. The novices used a syntax-based organization, whereas the experts used a more abstract hierarchical organization based on principles of program function.


Free Recall Expert Group Cluster Solution Subjective Organization Syntactic Category 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beth Adelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Social RelationsHarvard UniversityCambridge

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