The cognitive organization of a set of abstract programming concepts was investigated in subjects who varied in degree of computer programming experience. Relatedness ratings on pairs of the concepts were collected from naive, novice, intermediate, and advanced programmers. Both individual and group network representations of memory structure were derived using the Pathfinder network scaling algorithm. Not only did the four group networks differ, but they varied systematically with experience, providing support for the psychological meaningful-ness of the structures. Additionally, an analysis at the conceptual level revealed that the four groups differed in the way concepts were represented. Furthermore, this analysis was used to classify concepts in the naive, novice, and intermediate networks as well-defined or misdefined. The identification of semantic relations corresponding to some of the links in the networks provided further information concerning differences in programmer knowledge at different levels of experience. Applications of this work to programmer education and knowledge engineering are discussed.
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