An examination of learning processes during critical incident training

Implications for the development of adaptable trainees

Andrew Neal*, Stuart T. Godley, Terry Kirkpatrick, Graham Dewsnap, Wendy Joung, Beryl Hesketh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


Three experiments are reported that examined the process by which trainees learn decision-making skills during a critical incident training program. Formal theories of category learning were used to identify two processes that may be responsible for the acquisition of decision-making skills: rule learning and exemplar learning. Experiments 1 and 2 used the process dissociation procedure (L. L. Jacoby, 1998) to evaluate the contribution of these processes to performance. The results suggest that trainees used a mixture of rule and exemplar learning. Furthermore, these learning processes were influenced by different aspects of training structure and design. The goal of Experiment 3 was to develop training techniques that enable trainees to use a rule adaptively. Trainees were tested on cases that represented exceptions to the rule. Unexpectedly, the results suggest that providing general instruction regarding the kinds of conditions in which a decision rule does not apply caused them to fixate on the specific conditions mentioned and impaired their ability to identify other conditions in which the rule might not apply. The theoretical, methodological, and practical implications of the results are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1276-1291
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical incident training
  • Decision making
  • Examples
  • Fire fighting
  • Learning
  • Learning processes
  • Memory
  • Rules
  • Training

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'An examination of learning processes during critical incident training: Implications for the development of adaptable trainees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this