Explaining drives the discovery of real and illusory patterns

Joseph Jay Williams, Tania Lombrozo, Bob Rehder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Children’s and adults’ attempts to explain the world around them plays a key role in promoting learning and understanding, but little is known about how and why explaining has this effect. An experiment investigated explaining in the social context of learning to predict and explain individuals’ behavior, examining if explaining observations exerts a selective constraint to seek patterns or regularities underlying the observations, regardless of whether such patterns are harmful or helpful for learning. When there were reliable patterns– such as personality types that predict charitable behavior– explaining promoted learning. But when these patterns were misleading, explaining produced an impairment whereby participants exhibited less accurate learning and prediction of individuals’ behavior. This novel approach of contrasting explanation’s positive and negative effects suggests that explanation’s benefits are not merely due to increased motivation, attention or time, and that explaining may undermine learning in domains where regularities are absent, spurious, or unreliable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExpanding the Space of Cognitive Science - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2011
EditorsLaura Carlson, Christoph Hoelscher, Thomas F. Shipley
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages1352-1357
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780976831877
StatePublished - 2011
Event33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Expanding the Space of Cognitive Science, CogSci 2011 - Boston, United States
Duration: Jul 20 2011Jul 23 2011

Publication series

NameExpanding the Space of Cognitive Science - Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2011

Conference

Conference33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Expanding the Space of Cognitive Science, CogSci 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBoston
Period7/20/117/23/11

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • explanation
  • explanation impairment effect
  • generalization
  • learning
  • pattern detection
  • self-explanation
  • understanding

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