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ERIC Number: EJ1004063
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Mar
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 51
ISSN: ISSN-1076-898X
The Cost of Concreteness: The Effect of Nonessential Information on Analogical Transfer
Kaminski, Jennifer A.; Sloutsky, Vladimir M.; Heckler, Andrew F.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, v19 n1 p14-29 Mar 2013
Most theories of analogical transfer focus on similarities between the learning and transfer domains, where transfer is more likely between domains that share common surface features, similar elements, or common interpretations of structure. We suggest that characteristics of the learning instantiation alone can give rise to different levels of transfer. We propose that concreteness of the learning instantiation can hinder analogical transfer of well-defined structured concepts, such as mathematical concepts. We operationalize the term "concreteness" as the amount of information communicated through a specific instantiation of a concept. The 5 reported experiments with undergraduate students tested the hypothesis by presenting participants with the concept of a commutative mathematical group of order 3. The experiments varied the level of concreteness of the training instantiation and measured transfer of learning to a new instantiation. The results support the hypothesis, demonstrating better transfer from more generic instantiations (i.e., ones that communicate minimal extraneous information) than from more concrete instantiations. Specifically, concreteness was found to create an obstacle to successful structural alignment across domains, whereas generic instantiations led to spontaneous structural alignment. These findings have important implications for the theory of learning and transfer and practical implications for the design of educational material. Although some concreteness may activate prior knowledge and perhaps offer a leg up in the learning process, this benefit may come at the cost of transfer. (Contains 3 tables and 4 figures.)
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: R305B070407