External Correlates of Adult Digital Problem-Solving Process: An Empirical Analysis of PIAAC PSTRE Action Sequences

Susu Zhang, Xueying Tang, Qiwei He, Jingchen Liu, Zhiliang Ying

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Computerized assessments and interactive simulation tasks are increasingly popular and afford the collection of process data, i.e., an examinee's sequence of actions (e.g., clickstreams, keystrokes) that arises from interactions with each task. Action sequence data contain rich information on the problem-solving process but are in a nonstandard, variable-length discrete sequence format. Two methods that directly extract features from the raw action sequences, namely multidimensional scaling and sequence-to-sequence autoencoders, produce multidimensional numerical features that summarize original sequence information. This study explores the utility of action sequence features in understanding how problem-solving behavior relates to cognitive proficiencies and demographic characteristics. This is empirically illustrated with the process data from the 2012 PIAAC PSTRE digital assessment. Regularized regression results showed that action sequence features are more predictive of examinees' demographic and cognitive characteristics compared to final outcomes. Partial least squares analysis further aided the identification of behavioral patterns systematically associated with demographic/cognitive characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-136
Number of pages17
JournalZeitschrift fur Psychologie / Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • autoencoder
  • computerized assessment
  • multidimensional scaling
  • process data
  • sequence analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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