Mental model = active process

Top of mind: the active model currently being processed. Consider the following experiment:

  • You give the subject a sequence of arithmetic additions to process, which he's supposed to answer as fast as you ask them. The speed is measured as with the beats of notes.
  • You only give the subject additions of identical numbers: 7 + 7, 8 + 8, 9 + 9, etc. that are extremely easy to perform. While dictating the problems, maintain a steady rhythm of enunciation (again, like a musical riff being repeated) and progressively increase your speed. However, give your subject enough trials that he is able to follow your groove in a stable fashion. This should happen fairly quickly with such easy patterns.
  • Now give the subject a significantly different addition to perform, or even a different operation altogether. Measure the lag between your question and the response as the number of missed beats.
  • Alternatively, change the placement of your utterance with respect to the imaginary bars.

The theory is the following:

  • When a pattern is recognized, a certain configuration is loaded into an active area of computation. The configuration corresponds to a software program that is known to efficiently process the problem at hand - an locally optimal program. In our example, the table and algorithm of 2-addition. To answer the fastest, the subject must remain on alert at your utterance, and immediately activate the addition circuit. The easiest way is to follow the examiner's groove to focus on the addition task.
  • The change in the task can call for a different program to be loaded, which takes time. The time taken is an indication of the latency of response which is made up of several computational steps: at least identifying the difference, finding a suitable program and performing it.