Distinguishing Levels of Grounding that Underlie Transfer of Learning

Byrge, L. A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011).  Distinguishing levels of grounding that underlie transfer of learning.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 2818-2823).  Boston, Massachusetts: Cognitive Science Society.

We find that transfer of learning from a perceptually concrete simulation to an isomorphic but superficially dissimilar text- based problem is sensitive to the congruence between the force dynamics common to both systems and the kinesthetic schema induced via action in the first, perceptually concrete, simulation. Counterintuitively, incompatibility between the force dynamics and the kinesthetic schema has a beneficial effect on transfer, relative to compatibility as well as an unrelated control. We suggest that this incompatibility between action and system dynamics may make the system’s relational structure more salient, leading to a more flexible conceptualization that ultimately benefits transfer. In addition, we suggest that too much “action concreteness” in hands-on learning may actually limit transfer, by fostering an understanding that is tied to that action and therefore less available for transfer in situations where that action is no longer relevant.

Download PDF version of this paper