Cognitive Science 34 (5):776-806 (2010)

Authors
Tania Lombrozo
University of California, Berkeley
Joseph Williams
Indiana University, Bloomington
Abstract
Research in education and cognitive development suggests that explaining plays a key role in learning and generalization: When learners provide explanations—even to themselves—they learn more effectively and generalize more readily to novel situations. This paper proposes and tests a subsumptive constraints account of this effect. Motivated by philosophical theories of explanation, this account predicts that explaining guides learners to interpret what they are learning in terms of unifying patterns or regularities, which promotes the discovery of broad generalizations. Three experiments provide evidence for the subsumptive constraints account: prompting participants to explain while learning artificial categories promotes the induction of a broad generalization underlying category membership, relative to describing items (Exp. 1), thinking aloud (Exp. 2), or free study (Exp. 3). Although explaining facilitates discovery, Experiment 1 finds that description is more beneficial for learning item details. Experiment 2 additionally suggests that explaining anomalous observations may play a special role in belief revision. The findings provide insight into explanation’s role in discovery and generalization
Keywords Self‐explanation  Anomalies  Category learning  Learning  Explanation  Transfer  Generalization
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DOI 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2010.01113.x
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References found in this work BETA

The Web of Belief.W. V. O. Quine & J. S. Ullian - 1970 - New York: Random House.
Explanation and Scientific Understanding.Michael Friedman - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.
Explanatory Unification.Philip Kitcher - 1981 - Philosophy of Science 48 (4):507-531.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Instrumental Value of Explanations.Tania Lombrozo - 2011 - Philosophy Compass 6 (8):539-551.
Experiential Explanation.Sara Aronowitz & Tania Lombrozo - 2020 - Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (4):1321-1336.

View all 23 citations / Add more citations

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