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ERIC Number: EJ931863
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Nov
Pages: 14
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 52
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Assessing the Concreteness of Relational Representation
Rein, Jonathan R.; Markman, Arthur B.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v36 n6 p1452-1465 Nov 2010
Research has shown that people's ability to transfer abstract relational knowledge across situations can be heavily influenced by the concrete objects that fill relational roles. This article provides evidence that the concreteness of the relations themselves also affects performance. In 3 experiments, participants viewed simple relational patterns of visual objects and then identified these same patterns under a variety of physical transformations. Results show that people have difficulty generalizing to novel concrete forms of abstract relations, even when objects are unchanged. This suggests that stimuli are initially represented as concrete relations by default. In the 2nd and 3rd experiments, the number of distinct concrete relations in the training set was increased to promote more abstract representation. Transfer improved for novel concrete relations but not for other transformations such as object substitution. Results indicate that instead of automatically learning abstract relations, people's relational representations preserve all properties that appear consistently in the learning environment, including concrete objects and concrete relations. (Contains 9 figures and 2 footnotes.)
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
Identifiers - Location: Texas