Patterns of hypothesis testing in children's discriminative learning: A study of the development of problem-solving strategies

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Reports on 3 studies of elementary school children's problem-solving procedures in intentional discrimination tasks. Obtaining verbalizations of hypotheses on every trial made possible detailed analyses of the techniques used by the children to solve the problems. Exps I and II investigated the procedures used by 192 children in 2 age groups (about 7.5 and 10.5 yrs). These children not only used current stimulus information efficiently, but they also showed a reliable tendency, stronger in the older group, to permanently reject hypotheses that failed. Such use of hypothesis memory indicates strategic information processing. However, these same children failed to show an ideal problem-solving strategy, such as “focusing,” or to make any use of stimulus memory. In Exp III, 49 5-yr-olds' performances were observed. These children showed the ability to use current information appropriately. However, unlike the older children, they failed to use hypothesis memory strategically. In fact, the kindergartners exhibited a counterproductive and contrasting tendency to resample previously rejected hypotheses. The findings are discussed as they relate to an understanding of problem solving and its development in children. A critical analysis of previous methodology and conclusions is included. (18 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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