Observation Can Be as Effective as Action in Problem Solving

Cognitive Science 32 (1):162-183 (2008)
The present study discusses findings that replicate and extend the original work of Burns and Vollmeyer (2002), which showed that performance in problem solving tasks was more accurate when people were engaged in a non-specific goal than in a specific goal. The main innovation here was to examine the goal specificity effect under both observation-based and conventional action-based learning conditions. The findings show that goal specificity affects the accuracy of problem solving in the same way, both when the learning stage of the task is observationbased and when it is action-based. Additionally, the findings show that, when instructions do not promote goal specificity, observation-based problem solving is as effective as action-based problem solving.
Keywords Problem solving  Observation vs. intervention  Skill acquisition and learning
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DOI 10.1080/03640210701703683
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Christopher Peacocke (2008). Mental Action and Self-Awareness. In Lucy F. O'Brien & Matthew Soteriou (eds.), Mental Action. Oxford University Press.
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