The effects of general mental ability and memory on adaptive transfer in work settings

  • Barbara Frank (Author)
    Ruhr-University Bochum
  • Annette Kluge (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


To handle complex technical operations, operators acquire skills in vocational training. Most of these skills are not used immediately but at some point later; this is called temporal transfer. Our previous research showed that cognitive abilities such as general mental ability (GMA) and memory are good predictors of temporal transfer. In addition to temporal transfer, operators also have to solve non-routine and abnormal upcoming problems using their skill set; this type of transfer is called adaptive transfer. Based on previous findings, it is assumed that GMA and memory will affect adaptive transfer as well. Thirty-three engineering students learned how to operate a complex technical system in normal operation with either a fixed or a contingent sequence. After two weeks, all participants had to adapt their learned skills to handle the adaptive transfer task, which was not initially trained. It was shown that high GMA positively predicted adaptive transfer, but no effect of memory was found. This implies that GMA is required to solve new complex tasks using a learned skill set. The findings are in line with studies that showed an effect of GMA on temporal transfer.




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Contributor or sponsoring agency
Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft
Type, method or approach
original empirical work
Adaptive transfer, mental abilities, complex task, proces control, complex skills