Peer Discussions Improve Student Learning

Tullis, J. G. & Goldstone, R. L.  (2023). Peer Discussions Improve Student Learning. In C. E. Overson, C. M.  Hakala, L. L. Kordonowy, & V. A. Benassi (Eds.), In their own words: What scholars and teachers want you to know about why and how to apply the science of learning in your academic setting (pp. 465-473). Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

In our research, we examined whether and why peer instruction benefits learning in undergraduate and graduate psychology classes. Students’ answers following discussion are typically more accurate than their answers before discussion. However, one concern with using peer instruction is that the more knowledgeable partner just tells the less knowledgeable student what the correct answer is. This kind of direct transmission of knowledge from the more knowledgeable student to the less knowledgeable student may involve shallow learning and not produce long-lasting learning benefits. Alternatively, peer instruction may prompt students to actively engage with each other to test ideas and yield a new understanding that neither student possessed prior to their interaction. We tested whether peer instruction encourages knowledge transmission or knowledge generation by assessing students’ answers and their confidence in their answers before and after discussion. More specifically, we analyzed whether students just choose the answer of the more confident partner during discussion or whether the discussion between the partners generates novel information.

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Going Beyond Formalisms: A Grounded and Embodied Learning Approach to the Design of Pedagogical Statistics Simulations

Gok, S., & Goldstone, R. L., (2022). Going Beyond Formalisms: A Grounded and Embodied Learning Approach to the Design of Pedagogical Statistics Simulations.  Journal of Applied Instructional Design, 11:4, 1-16.

Computer-based interactive simulations that model the processes of sampling from a population are increasingly being used in data literacy education. However, these simulations are often summarized by graphs designed from the point of view of experts which makes them difficult for novices to grasp. In our ongoing design-based research project, we build and test alternative sampling simulations to the standard ones. Based on a grounded and embodied learning perspective, the core to our design position is that difficult and abstract sampling concepts and processes should: be grounded in familiar objects that are intuitive to interpret, incorporate concrete animations that spontaneously activate learners‚Äô gestures, and be accompanied by verbal instruction for a deeply integrated learning. Here, we report the results from the initial two phases of our project. In the first iteration, through an online experiment (N=126), we show that superficial perceptual elements in a standard simulation can lead to misinterpretation of concepts. In the second iteration, we pilot test a new grounded simulation with think-aloud interviews (N=9). We reflect on the complementary affordances of visual models, verbal instruction, and learners‚Äô gestures in fostering integrated and deep understanding of concepts. 

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Plan composition using higher-order functions

Rivera, E., Krishnamurthi, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2022).¬†¬†Plan composition using higher-order functions. In Proceedings of the 2022 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research V.1 (ICER 2022), August 7‚Äď11, 2022, Lugano, Switzerland. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 21 pages.

Program planning has been a longstanding and important problem in computing education. Finding useful primitives for planning and assessing whether students are able to understand and use these primitives remain open problems. We make progress on this problem by using higher-order functions (hofs) as planning operations. Not only are hofs increasingly prevalent in computing broadly, some data science programming sources also recommend their use in planning solutions to data-processing pipelines, giving our task additional applicability.

We find students are proficient at recognizing individual hofs through input-output examples. They use a variety of features to identify hofs, with the most prominent features being type-based. While they do have difficulty recognizing compositions of hofs presented in the same input-output example format, there may be simple explanations for this. Either way, students are able to produce correct plans that require composing hofs, and can successfully translate these plans into correct code.

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Self-organized division of cognitive labor

Andrade-Lotero, E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2021).  Self-organized division of cognitive labor.  PLoS ONE, 16(7): e0254532. 

Often members of a group benefit from dividing the group’s task into separate components, where each member specializes their role so as to accomplish only one of the components. While this division of labor phenomenon has been observed with respect to both manual and cognitive labor, there is no clear understanding of the cognitive mechanisms allowing for its emergence, especially when there are multiple divisions possible and communication is limited. Indeed, maximization of expected utility often does not differentiate between alternative ways in which individuals could divide labor. We developed an iterative two-person game in which there are multiple ways of dividing labor, but in which it is not possible to explicitly negotiate a division. We implemented the game both as a human experimental task and as a computational model. Our results show that the majority of human dyads can finish the game with an efficient division of labor. Moreover, we fitted our computational model to the behavioral data, which allowed us to explain how the perceived similarity between a player’s actions and the task’s focal points guided the players’ choices from one round to the other, thus bridging the group dynamics and its underlying cognitive process. Potential applications of this model outside cognitive science include the improvement of cooperation in human groups, multi-agent systems, as well as human-robot collaboration.

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Why does peer instruction benefit student learning?


Tullis, J. G., & Goldstone, R. L. (2020).  Why does peer instruction benefit student learning?  Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 5:15, 1-12.

In peer instruction, instructors pose a challenging question to students, students answer the question individually, students work with a partner in the class to discuss their answers, and finally students answer the question again. A large body of evidence shows that peer instruction benefits student learning. To determine the mechanism for these benefits, we collected semester-long data from six classes, involving a total of 208 undergraduate students being asked a total of 86 different questions related to their course content. For each question, students chose their answer individually, reported their confidence, discussed their answers with their partner, and then indicated their possibly revised answer and confidence again. Overall, students were more accurate and confident after discussion than before. Initially correct students were more likely to keep their answers than initially incorrect students, and this tendency was partially but not completely attributable to differences in confidence. We discuss the benefits of peer instruction in terms of differences in the coherence of explanations, social learning, and the contextual factors that influence confidence and accuracy.

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Simple Threshold Rules Solve Explore/Exploit Trade-offs in a Resource Accumulation Search Task

Sang, K., Todd, P. M., Goldstone, R. L., & Hills, T. T. (2020).  Simple threshold rules solve explore/exploit tradeoffs in a resource accumulation search task. Cognitive Science, 44, e12817.

How, and how well, do people switch between exploration and exploitation to search for and accumulate resources? We study the decision processes underlying such exploration/exploitation trade-offs using a novel card selection task that captures the common situation of searching among multiple resources (e.g., jobs) that can be exploited without depleting. With experience, participants learn to switch appropriately between exploration and exploitation and approach optimal performance. We model participants‚Äô behavior on this task with random, threshold, and sampling strategies, and find that a linear decreasing threshold rule best fits participants‚Äô results. Further evidence that participants use decreasing threshold-based strategies comes from reaction time differences between exploration and exploitation; however, participants themselves report nondecreasing thresholds. Decreasing threshold strategies that ‚Äúfront-load‚ÄĚ exploration and switch quickly to exploitation are particularly effective in resource accumulation tasks, in contrast to optimal stopping problems like the Secretary Problem requiring longer exploration.

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Becoming cognitive science

Goldstone, R. L. (2019).  Becoming cognitive science.  Topics in Cognitive Science, 1-12.

Cognitive science continues to make a compelling case for having a coherent, unique, and fundamental¬†subject of inquiry: What is the nature of minds, where do they come from, and how do¬†they work? Central to this inquiry is the notion of agents that have goals, one of which is their¬†own persistence, who use dynamically constructed knowledge to act in the world to achieve those¬†goals. An agentive perspective explains why a special class of systems have a cluster of co-occurring¬†capacities that enable them to exhibit adaptive behavior in a complex environment: perception,¬†attention, memory, representation, planning, and communication. As an intellectual endeavor,¬†cognitive science may not have achieved a hard core of uncontested assumptions that Lakatos¬†(1978) identifies as emblematic of a successful research program, but there are alternative conceptions¬†according to which cognitive science has been successful. First, challenges of the early, core¬†tenet of ‚ÄúMind as Computation‚ÄĚ have helped put cognitive science on a stronger foundation‚ÄĒone¬†that incorporates relations between minds and their environments. Second, even if a full cross-disciplinary¬†theoretic consensus is elusive, cognitive science can inspire distant, deep, and transformative¬†connections between pairs of fields. To be intellectually vital, cognitive science need not¬†resemble a traditional discipline with its associated insularity and unchallenged assumptions.¬†Instead, there is strength and resilience in the diverse perspectives and methods that cognitive¬†science assembles together. This interdisciplinary enterprise is fragile and perhaps inherently¬†unstable, as the looming absorption of cognitive science into psychology shows. Still, for many¬†researchers, the excitement and benefits of triangulating on the nature of minds by integrating¬†diverse cases cannot be secured by a stable discipline with an uncontested core of assumptions.

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Building Inner Tools

Goldstone, R. L. (2019).  Building inner tools.  In M. Colombo, E. Irvine, M. Stapleton (Eds.)Andy Clark and his Critics. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press (pp. 113-127).

Humans show a striking penchant for creating tools to benefit our own thought¬†processes. Andy Clark (2003, 2008) has convincingly argued that the tools that we¬†as humans recruit become integrated parts of an extended cognitive system that¬†includes us as just one component. By extending cognition beyond our brains,¬†Clark presents an ‚Äúembiggened‚ÄĚ perspective on what it means to be a cognizer¬†and a person more generally. This perspectival shift runs counter to some recent¬†forms of argumentation that in effect work to minimize personhood. For example,¬†arguments for lack of personal culpability can take the form of ‚ÄúIt wasn‚Äôt my fault.¬†It was the fault of my ___ ‚ÄĚ to be filled in, perhaps, by ‚Äúupbringing,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúgenes,‚Ä̬†‚Äúneurochemistry,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúdiet,‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúimproperly functioning amygdala.‚ÄĚ Instead, Clark (see¬†also Dennett 1989) offers the opposite line of argumentation, according to which¬†we consist not only of our amygdalae and hippocampi but also potentially our¬†glasses, notebooks, friends, supporting technologies, and culture.

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Beyond the lab: Using big data to discover principles of cognition

Lupyan, G., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). Introduction to special issue. Beyond the lab: Using big data to discover principles of cognition.  Behavior Research Methods, 51, 1473-1476.

Like many other scientific disciplines, psychological science¬†has felt the impact of the big-data revolution. This impact¬†arises from the meeting of three forces: data availability, data¬†heterogeneity, and data analyzability. In terms of data¬†availability, consider that for decades, researchers relied on¬†the Brown Corpus of about one million words (Kuńćera &¬†Francis, 1969). Modern resources, in contrast, are larger by¬†six orders of magnitude (e.g., Google‚Äôs 1T corpus) and are¬†available in a growing number of languages. About 240 billion¬†photos have been uploaded to Facebook,1¬† and Instagram¬†receives over 100 million new photos each day.2¬† The largescale¬†digitization of these data has made it possible in principle¬†to analyze and aggregate these resources on a previously¬†unimagined scale. Heterogeneity¬† refers to the availability of¬†different types¬† of data. For example, recent progress in automatic¬†image recognition is owed not just to improvements in¬†algorithms and hardware, but arguably more to the ability to¬†merge large collections of images with linguistic labels (produced¬†by crowdsourced human taggers) that serve as training¬†data to the algorithms. Making use of heterogeneous data¬†sources often depends on their standardization. For example,¬†the ability to combine demographic and grammatical data¬†about thousands of languages led to the finding that languages¬†spoken by more people have simpler morphologies (Lupyan¬†& Dale, 2010 ). The ability to combine these data types would¬†have been substantially more difficult without the existence of¬†standardized language and country codes that could be used to¬†merge the different data sources. Finally, analyzability¬† must be¬†ensured, for without appropriate tools to process and analyze¬†different types of data, the ‚Äú data‚Ä̬† are merely bytes.

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See all of the papers appearing in the Big Data Special Issue of Behavior Research Methods

The Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation in Collective Search

Tump, A. N., Wu, C. M., Bouhlel, I., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019).The Evolutionary Dynamics of Cooperation in Collective Search.  Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 883-889). Montreal, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

How does cooperation arise in an evolutionary context? We approach¬†this problem using a collective search paradigm where¬†interactions are dynamic and there is competition for rewards.¬†Using evolutionary simulations, we find that the unconditional¬†sharing of information can be an evolutionary advantageous¬†strategy without the need for conditional strategies or explicit¬†reciprocation. Shared information acts as a recruitment signal¬†and facilitates the formation of a self-organized group.¬†Thus, the improved search efficiency of the collective bestows¬†byproduct benefits onto the original sharer. A key mechanism¬†is a visibility radius, where individuals have unconditional¬†access to information about neighbors within a limited¬†distance. Our results show that for a variety of initial¬†conditions‚ÄĒincluding populations initially devoid of prosocial¬†individuals‚ÄĒand across both static and dynamic fitness landscapes,¬†we find strong selection pressure to evolve unconditional¬†sharing.

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Complex exploration dynamics from simple heuristics in a collective learning environment

Sloman, S. J., Goldstone, R. L., & Gonzalez, C. (2019). Complex exploration dynamics from simple heuristics in a collective learning environment.  Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2818-2824). Montreal, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

Effective problem solving requires both exploration and exploitation.¬†We analyze data from a group problem-solving task¬†to gain insight into how people use information from past experiences¬†and from others to achieve explore-exploit trade-offs in¬†complex environments. The behavior we observe is consistent¬†with the use of simple, reinforcement-based heuristics. Participants¬†increase exploration immediately after experiencing a¬†low payoff, and decrease exploration immediately after experiencing¬†a high or improved payoff. We suggest that whether¬†an outcome is perceived as ‚Äúhigh‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúlow‚ÄĚ is a dynamic function¬†of the outcome information available to participants. The¬†degree to which the distribution of observed information reflects¬†the true range of possible outcomes plays an important¬†role in determining whether or not this heuristic is adaptive in¬†a given environment.

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Self-Organized Division of Cognitive Labor

Andrade-Lotero, E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019).  Self-Organized Division of Cognitive Labor.  Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 91-97). Montreal, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

The division of labor phenomenon has been observed with respect to both manual and cognitive labor, but there is no clear understanding of the intra- and inter-individual mechanisms that allow for its emergence, especially when there are multiple divisions possible and communication is limited. Situations fitting this description include individuals in a group splitting a geographical region for resource harvesting without explicit negotiation, or a couple tacitly negotiating the hour of the day for each to shower so that there is sufficient hot water. We studied this phenomenon by means of an iterative two-person game where multiple divisions are possible, but no explicit communication is allowed. Our results suggest that there are a limited number of biases toward divisions of labor, which serve as attractors in the dynamics of dyadic coordination. However, unlike Schelling’s focal points, these biases do not attract players’ attention at the onset of the interaction, but are only revealed and consolidated by the in-game dynamics of dyadic interaction.

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A Computational Model of Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism

Lara-Dammer, F., Hofstadter, D. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). A Computational Model of Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism.  Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 1-22. 10.1080/0952813X.2019.1592234

We propose a computational model of human scientific discovery and perception of the world. As a prerequisite for such a model, we simulate dynamic microworlds in which physical events take place, as well as an observer that visually perceives and makes interpretations of events in the microworld. Moreover, we give the observer the ability to actively conduct experiments in order to gain evidence about natural regularities in the world. We have broken up the description of our project into two pieces. The first piece deals with the interpreter constructing relatively simple visual descriptions of objects and collisions within a context. The second phase deals with the interpreter positing relationships among the entities, winding up with elaborated construals and conjectures of mathematical laws governing the world. This paper focuses only on the second phase. As is the case with most human scientific observation, observations are subject to interpretation, and the discoveries are influenced by these interpretations.

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The emergence of social norms and conventions

Hawkins, R. X. D., Goodman, N. D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2019). The emergence of social norms and conventions.  Trends in Cognitive Science.

The utility of our actions frequently depends upon the beliefs and behavior of other agents. Thankfully, through experience, we learn norms and conventions that provide stable expectations for navigating our social world. Here, we review several distinct influences on their content and distribution. At the level of individuals locally interacting in dyads, success depends on rapidly adapting pre-existing norms to the local context. Hence, norms are shaped by complex cognitive processes involved in learning and social reasoning. At the population level, norms are influenced by intergenerational transmission and the structure of the social network. As human social connectivity continues to increase, understanding and predicting how these levels and time scales interact to produce new norms will be crucial for improving communities. 

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Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018).  Cognitive mechanisms for human flocking dynamics.  Journal of Computational Social Science.

Low-level ‚Äúadaptive‚ÄĚ and higher-level ‚Äúsophisticated‚ÄĚ human reasoning processes¬†have been proposed to play opposing roles in the emergence of unpredictable collective¬†behaviors such as crowd panics, traffic jams, and market bubbles. While adaptive¬†processes are widely recognized drivers of emergent social complexity, complementary¬†theories of sophistication predict that incentives, education, and other¬†inducements to rationality will suppress it. We show in a series of multiplayer laboratory¬†experiments that, rather than suppressing complex social dynamics, sophisticated¬†reasoning processes can drive them. Our experiments elicit an endogenous¬†collective behavior and show that it is driven by the human ability to recursively¬†anticipate the reasoning of others. We identify this behavior, ‚Äúsophisticated flocking‚ÄĚ,¬†across three games, the Beauty Contest and the ‚ÄúMod Game‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúRunway¬†Game‚ÄĚ. In supporting our argument, we also present evidence for mental models and¬†social norms constraining how players express their higher-level reasoning abilities.¬†By implicating sophisticated recursive reasoning in the kind of complex dynamic¬†that it has been predicted to suppress, we support interdisciplinary perspectives that¬†emergent complexity is typical of even the most intelligent populations and carefully¬†designed social systems.

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Models of human scientific discovery

Goldstone, R. L., Gopnik, A., Thagard, P., & Ullman, T. D. (2018).  Models of human scientific discovery.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 29-30). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

The scientific understanding of scientific understanding has¬†been a long-standing goal of cognitive science. A satisfying¬†formal model of human scientific discovery would be a¬†major intellectual achievement, requiring solutions to core¬†problems in cognitive science: the creation and use of apt¬†mental models, the prediction of the behavior of complex¬†systems involving interactions between multiple classes of¬†elements, high-level perception of noisy and multiply¬†interpretable environments, and the active interrogation of a¬†system through strategic interventions on it ‚Äď namely, via¬†experiments. Over the past decades there have been¬†numerous attempts to build formal models that capture what¬†Perkins (1981) calls some of the ‚Äúmind‚Äôs best work‚ÄĚ ‚Ästscientific explanations for how the natural world works by¬†systematic observation, prediction, and testing. Early work¬†by Hebert Simon and his colleagues (Langley, Simon,¬†Bradshaw, & Zytkow, 1987) developed production rule¬†systems employing heuristics to tame extremely large¬†conjoint search spaces of experiments to run and hypotheses¬†to test. Qualitative physics approaches seek to understand¬†physical phenomena by building non-numeric, relational¬†models of the phenomena (Forbus, 1984). Some early¬†connectionist models interpreted scientific explanation in¬†terms of emerging patterns of strongly activated hypotheses¬†that mutually support one another (Thagard, 1992).

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Data visualization as a domain to research areas in cognitive science

McColeman, C., Michal, A., Goldstone, R. l., Schloss, K., Kaminski, J., & Hullman, J. (2018).  Data visualization as a domain to research areas in cognitive science.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 35-36). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 How people are able to turn information in the environment into meaning is a critical question for cognitive science. That environment is increasingly data-driven. Using data to inform decisions and improve understanding of the world is a valuable component of critical thinking, and serves as the foundation of evidence-based decision making. Designing graphical representations can make those data more accessible, such that users may engage the visual system and capacity for visual pattern recognition to discern regularities and properties of data. We ultimately want to understand the connection between the initial perception of data visualizations and conceptual understanding of information. Data visualizations, broadly, are the representation of recorded values in visual form, including scientific visualizations such as brain scans, or live visualizations such as stock market monitoring; the work discussed through this symposium is of the type used in science, business, and medical settings to display data abstractly.

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Sharing is not erring: Pseudo-reciprocity in collective search

Bouhlel, I., Wu, C. M., Hanaki, N., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018). Sharing is not erring: Pseudo-reciprocity in collective search. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 156-161). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

Information sharing in competitive environments may seem¬†counterintuitive, yet it is widely observed in humans and other¬†animals. For instance, the open-source software movement has¬†led to new and valuable technologies being released publicly¬†to facilitate broader collaboration and further innovation. What¬†drives this behavior and under which conditions can it be beneficial¬†for an individual? Using simulations in both static and¬†dynamic environments, we show that sharing information can¬†lead to individual benefits through the mechanisms of pseudoreciprocity,¬†whereby shared information leads to by-product¬†benefits for an individual without the need for explicit reciprocation.¬†Crucially, imitation with a certain level of innovation is¬†required to avoid a tragedy of the commons, while the mechanism¬†of a local visibility radius allows for the coordination of¬†self-organizing collectives of agents. When these two mechanisms¬†are present, we find robust evidence for the benefits of¬†sharing‚ÄĒeven when others do not reciprocate.

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Visual flexibility in arithmetic expressions

Yu, J., Landy, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018). Visual flexibility in arithmetic expressions.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2750-2755). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 We investigated whether, and in what, ways people use visual structures to evaluate mathematical expressions. We also explored the relationship between strategy use and other common measures in mathematics education. Participants organized long sum/products when visual structure was available in algebraic expressions. Two experiments showed a similar pattern: One group of participants primarily calculated from left to right, or combined identical numbers together. A second group calculated adjacent pairs. A third group tended to group terms which either produced easy sums (e.g., 6+4), or participated in a global structure. These different strategies were associated with different levels of success on the task, and, in Experiment 2, with differential math anxiety and mathematical skill. Specifically, problem solvers with lower math anxiety and higher math ability tend to group by chunks and easy calculation. These results identify an important role for the perception of coherent structure and pattern identification in mathematical reasoning. 

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Experientially grounded learning about the roles of variability, sample size, and difference between means in statistical reasoning

Yu, J., Goldstone, R. L., & Landy, D. (2018). Experientially grounded learning about the roles of variability, sample size, and difference between means in statistical reasoning.  Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2744-2749). Madison, Wisconsin: Cognitive Science Society.

 Despite its omnipresence in this information-laden society, statistics is hard. The present study explored the applicability of a grounded cognition approach to learning basic statistical concepts. Participants in 2 experiments interacted with perceptually rich computer simulations designed to foster understanding of the relations between fundamental statistical concepts and to promote the ability to reason with statistics. During training, participants were asked to estimate the probability of two samples coming from the same population, with sample size, variability, and difference between means independently manipulated. The amount of learning during training was measured by the difference between participants’ confidence judgments and those of an Ideal Observer. The amount of transfer was assessed by the increase in accuracy from a pretest to a posttest. Learning and transfer were observed when tailored guidance was given along with the perceptually salient properties. Implications of our quantitative measures of human sensitivity to statistical concepts were discussed.

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Science map metaphors: a comparison of network versus hexmap-based visualizations

Börner, K. Simpson, A. H., Bueckle, A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2018).  Science map metaphors: a comparison of network versus hexmap-based visualizations.  Scientometrics, 114, 409-426.

Most maps of science use a network layout; few use a landscape metaphor. Human users are trained in reading geospatial maps, yet most have a hard time reading even simple networks. Prior work using general networks has shown that map-based visualizations increase recall accuracy of data. This paper reports the result of a comparison of two comparable renderings of the UCSD map of science that are: the original network layout and a novel hexmap that uses a landscape metaphor to layout the 554 subdisciplines grouped into 13 color-coded disciplines of science. Overlaid are HITS metrics that show the impact and transformativeness of different scientific subdisciplines. Both maps support the same interactivity, including search, filter, zoom, panning, and details on demand. Users performed memorization, search, and retrieval tasks using both maps. Results did not show any significant differences in how the two maps were remembered or used by participants. We conclude with a discussion of results and planned future work.

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The construction of perceptual and semantic features during category learning

Goldstone, R. L., Rogosky, B. J., Pevtzow, R., & Blair, M. (2017).  The construction of perceptual and semantic features during category learning.  In H. Cohen & C. Lefebvre (Eds.)  Handbook of Categorization in Cognitive Science.  (pp. 851-882).  Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Category learning not only depends upon perceptual and semantic representations; it also leads to the generation of these representations. We describe two series of experiments that demonstrate how categorization experience alters, rather than simply uses, descriptions of objects. In the first series, participants first learned to categorize objects on the basis of particular sets of line segments. Subsequently, participants were given a perceptual part/whole judgment task. Categorization training influenced participants’ part/whole judgments, indicating that whole objects were more likely to be broken down into parts that were relevant during categorization. In the second series, correlations were created or broken between semantic features of word concepts (e.g., ferocious vs. timid and group-oriented vs. solitary animals). The best transfer was found between category learning tasks that shared the same semantic organization of concepts. Together, the experiments support models of category learning that simultaneously create the elements of categorized objects’ descriptions and associate those elements with categories.

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Categorization and Concepts

Goldstone, R. L., Kersten, A., & Carvalho, P. F. (2017).  Categorization and Concepts.  In J. Wixted (Ed.) Stevens’ Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive neuroscience, Fourth Edition, Volume Three: Language & Thought.  New Jersey: Wiley.  (pp. 275-317).

Concepts are the building blocks of thought.¬†They are critically involved when we reason,¬†make inferences, and try to generalize¬†our previous experiences to new situations.¬†Behind every word in every language lies¬†a concept, although there are concepts, like¬†the small plastic tubes attached to the ends¬†of shoelaces, that we are familiar with and¬†can think about even if we do not know¬†that they are called aglets . Concepts are¬†indispensable to human cognition because¬†they take the ‚Äúblooming, buzzing confusion‚Ä̬†(James, 1890, p. 488) of disorganized¬†sensory experiences and establish order¬†through mental categories. These mental¬†categories allow us to make sense of the¬†world and predict how worldly entities will¬†behave. We see, hear, interpret, remember,¬†understand, and talk about our world through¬†our concepts, and so it is worthy of reflection¬†time to establish where concepts come¬†from, how they work, and how they can¬†best be learned and deployed to suit our¬†cognitive needs.

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Promoting Spontaneous Analogical Transfer by Idealizing Target Representations

Trench, M., Tavernini, L. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2017).  Promoting spontaneous analogical transfer by idealizing target representations.  Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 1206-1211).  London, England: Cognitive Science Society. 

Recent results demonstrate that inducing an abstract representation of target analogs at retrieval time aids access to analogous situations with mismatching surface features (i.e., the late abstraction principle). A limitation of current implementations of this principle is that they either require the external provision of target-specific information or demand very high intellectual engagement. Experiment 1 demonstrated that constructing an idealized situation model of a target problem increases the rate of correct solutions compared to constructing either concrete simulations or no simulations. Experiment 2 confirmed that these results were based on an advantage for accessing the base analog, and not merely on an advantage of idealized simulations for understanding the target problem in its own terms. This target idealization strategy has broader applicability than prior interventions based on the late abstraction principle, because it can be achieved by a greater proportion of participants and without the need to receive target-specific information.

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Even when people are manipulating algebraic equations, they still associate numerical magnitude with space

Marghetis, T., Goldstone, R. L., & Landy, D. (2017).  Even when people are manipulating algebraic equations, they still associate numerical magnitude with space.  Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2675-2680). London, England: Cognitive Science Society.

The development of symbolic algebra transformed civilization. Since algebra is a recent cultural invention, however, algebraic reasoning must build on a foundation of more basic capacities. Past work suggests that spatial representations of number may be part of that foundation, but recent studies have failed to find relations between spatial-numerical associations and higher mathematical skills. One possible explanation of this failure is that spatial representations of number are not activated during complex mathematics. We tested this possibility by collecting dense behavioral recordings while participants manipulated equations. When interacting with an equation’s greatest [/least] number, participants’ movements were deflected upward [/downward] and rightward [/leftward]. This occurred even when the task was purely algebraic and could thus be solved without attending to magnitude (although the deflection was reduced). This is the first evidence that spatial representations of number are activated during algebra. Algebraic reasoning may require coordinating a variety of spatial processes.

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A computer model of context dependent perception in a very simple world

Lara-Dammer, F., Hofstadter, D. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (2017). A computer model of context dependent perception in a very simple world.  Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, 29:6, 1247-1282.  DOI: 10.1080/0952813X.2017.1328463

We propose the foundations of a computer model of scientic discovery that takes into account certain psychological aspects of human observation of the world. To this end, we simulate two main components of such a system. The first is a dynamic microworld in which physical events take place, and the second is an observer that visually perceives entities and events in the microworld. For reason of space, this paper focuses only on the starting phase of discovery, which is the relatively simple visual inputs of objects and collisions.

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Instruction in computer modeling can support broad application of complex systems knowledge

Tullis, J. G., & Goldstone, R. L. (2017).  Instruction in computer modeling can support broad application of complex systems knowledge.  Frontiers in Education, 2:4, 1-18.  doi: 10.3389/feduc.2017.00004

Learners often struggle to grasp the important, central principles of complex systems, which describe how interactions between individual agents can produce complex, aggre-gate-level patterns. Learners have even more difficulty transferring their understanding of these principles across superficially dissimilar instantiations of the principles. Here, we provide evidence that teaching high school students an agent-based modeling language can enable students to apply complex system principles across superficially different domains. We measured student performance on a complex systems assessment before and after 1 week training in how to program models using NetLogo (Wilensky, 1999a). Instruction in NetLogo helped two classes of high school students apply complex sys-tems principles to a broad array of phenomena not previously encountered. We argue that teaching an agent-based computational modeling language effectively combines the benefits of explicitly defining the abstract principles underlying agent-level interac-tions with the advantages of concretely grounding knowledge through interactions with agent-based models.

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Transfer of Knowledge

Goldstone, R. L., & Day, S. (2017).  Transfer of knowledge.  In K. Peppler (Ed.) The SAGE Encyclopedia of Out-of-school Learning.  Thousand Oaks, CA. (pp. 784-787).

Transfer of knowledge is the application of knowledge learned in one context to new, dissimilar problems or situations where the knowledge would be useful. Teachers, coaches, camp counselors, parents, and learners often have the experience of a learner showing apparent understanding when questioned about a topic in a way that closely matches how it was initially presented but showing almost no understanding when queried in a new context or with novel examples. This entry further explains the concept of knowledge transfer. It then discusses several different strategies used to support knowledge transfer.

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Modeling Mathematical Reasoning as Trained Perception-Action Procedures

Goldstone, R. L., Weitnauer, E., Ottmar, E., Marghetis, T., & Landy, D. H. (2016).   Modeling Mathematical Reasoning as Trained Perception-Action Procedures.  In R. Sottilare, A. Graesser, X. Hu, A. Olney, B. Nye, and A. Sinatra (Eds.) Design Recommendations for Intelligent Tutoring Systems: Volume 4 РDomain Modeling. Orlando, FL: U.S. Army Research Laboratory. (pp. 213-223).

We have observed that when people engage in algebraic reasoning, they often perceptually and spatially transform algebraic notations directly rather than first converting the notation to an internal, non spatial representation. We describe empirical evidence for spatial transformations, such as spatially compact grouping, transposition, spatially overlaid intermediate results, cancelling out, swapping, and splitting. This research has led us to understand domain models in mathematics as the deployment of trained and strategically crafted perceptual-motor processes working on grounded and strategically crafted notations. This approach to domain modeling has also motivated us to develop and assess an algebra tutoring system focused on helping students train their perception and action systems to coordinate with each other and formal mathematics. Overall, our laboratory and classroom investigations emphasize the interplay between explicit mathematical understandings and implicit perception action training as having a high potential payoff for making learning more efficient, robust, and broadly applicable.

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Comparison versus reminding

Tullis, J. G. & Goldstone, R. L. (2016).  Comparison versus reminding.  Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 1, 1-20, DOI 10.1186/s41235-016-0028-1.

Comparison and reminding have both been shown to support learning and transfer. Comparison is thought to support transfer because it allows learners to disregard non-matching features of superficially different episodes in order to abstract the essential structure of concepts. Remindings promote memory for the individual episodes and generalization because they prompt learners to retrieve earlier episodes during the encoding of later related episodes and to compare across episodes. Across three experiments, we compared the consequences of comparison and reminding on memory and transfer. Participants studied a sequence of related, but superficially different, proverb pairs. In the comparison condition, participants saw proverb pairs presented together and compared their meaning. In the reminding condition, participants viewed proverbs one at a time and retrieved any prior studied proverb that shared the same deep meaning as the current proverb. Experiment 1 revealed that participants in the reminding condition recalled more proverbs than those in the comparison condition. Experiment 2 showed that the mnemonic benefits of reminding persisted over a one-week retention interval. Finally, in Experiment 3, we examined the ability of participants to generalize their remembered information to new items in a task that required participants to identify unstudied proverbs that shared the samemeaning as studied proverbs. Comparison led to worse discrimination between proverbs related to studied proverbs and proverbs unrelated to studied proverbs than reminding. Reminding supported better memory for individual instances and transfer to new situations than comparison.

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Mastering algebra retrains the visual system to perceive hierarchical structure in equations

Marghetis, T., Landy, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2016).  Mastering algebra retrains the visual system to perceive hierarchical structure in equations.  Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 1(25), 1-10, DOI 10.1186/s41235-016-0020-9.

Formal mathematics is a paragon of abstractness. It thus seems natural to assume that the mathematical expert¬†should rely more on symbolic or conceptual processes, and less on perception and action. We argue instead that¬†mathematical proficiency relies on perceptual systems that have been retrained to implement mathematical skills.¬†Specifically, we investigated whether the visual system‚ÄĒin particular, object-based attention‚ÄĒis retrained so that¬†parsing algebraic expressions and evaluating algebraic validity are accomplished by visual processing. Object-based¬†attention occurs when the visual system organizes the world into discrete objects, which then guide the¬†deployment of attention. One classic signature of object-based attention is better perceptual discrimination within,¬†rather than between, visual objects. The current study reports that object-based attention occurs not only for¬†simple shapes but also for symbolic mathematical elements within algebraic expressions‚ÄĒbut only among¬†individuals who have mastered the hierarchical syntax of algebra. Moreover, among these individuals, increased¬†object-based attention within algebraic expressions is associated with a better ability to evaluate algebraic validity.¬†These results suggest that, in mastering the rules of algebra, people retrain their visual system to represent and¬†evaluate abstract mathematical structure. We thus argue that algebraic expertise involves the regimentation and¬†reuse of evolutionarily ancient perceptual processes. Our findings implicate the visual system as central to learning¬†and reasoning in mathematics, leading us to favor educational approaches to mathematics and related STEM fields¬†that encourage students to adapt, not abandon, their use of perception.

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Discovering Psychological Principles by Mining Naturally Occurring Data Sets

Goldstone, R. L., & Lupyan, G. (2016).  Harvesting naturally occurring data to reveal principles of cognition.  Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 548-568.

The very expertise with which psychologists wield their tools for achieving laboratory control may have had the unwelcome effect of blinding psychologists to the possibilities of discovering principles of behavior without conducting experiments. When creatively interrogated, a diverse range of large, real-world data sets provides powerful diagnostic tools for revealing principles of human judgment, perception, categorization, decision-making, language use, inference, problem solving, and representation. Examples of these data sets include patterns of website links, dictionaries, logs of group interactions, collections of images and image tags, text corpora, history of financial transactions, trends in twitter tag usage and propagation, patents, consumer product sales, performance in high-stakes sporting events, dialect maps, and scientific citations. The goal of this issue is to present some exemplary case studies of mining naturally existing data sets to reveal important principles and phenomena in cognitive science, and to discuss some of the underlying issues involved with conducting traditional experiments, analyses of naturally occurring data, computational modeling, and the synthesis of all three methods.This article serves as the introduction to a TopiCS topic with the same name.  The rest of the downloadable papers in this Topic are:

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Berger, J. (2016). Does presentation order impact choice after delay? Topics in Cognitive Science.

Christiansen, M. H., & Monaghan, P. (2016). Division of labor in vocabulary structure: Insights from corpus¬†analyses. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 670‚Äď684. doi: 10.1111/tops.12205.

Griffiths, T. L., Abbott, J. T., & Hsu, A. S. (2016). Exploring human cognition using large image databases.¬†Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 569‚Äď588. doi: 10.1111/tops.12209.

Heit, E., & Nicholson, S. P. (2016). Missing the party: Political categorization and reasoning in the absence¬†of party label cues. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 697‚Äď714. doi: 10.1111/tops.12206.

Koedinger, K. R., Yudelson, M. V., & Pavlik Jr., P. I. (2016). Testing theories of transfer using error rate¬†learning curves. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 589‚Äď609. doi: 10.1111/tops.12208.

Moat, H. S., Olivola, C. Y., Chater, N., & Preis, T. (2016). Searching choices: Quantifying decision making¬†processes using search engine data. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 685‚Äď696. doi: 10.1111/tops.12207.

Pope, D. G. (2016). Exploring psychology in the field: Steps and examples from the used-car market. Topics¬†in Cognitive Science, 8, 660‚Äď669. doi: 10.1111/tops.12210.

Vincent-Lamarre, P., Blondin Masse, A., Lopes, M., Lord, M., Marcotte, O., & Harnad, S. (2016). The latent¬†structure of dictionaries. Topics in Cognitive Science, 8, 625‚Äď659. doi: 10.1111/tops.12211.


An in vivo study of self-regulated study sequencing in introductory psychology courses

Carvalho, P.F., Braithwaite, D.W., de Leeuw, J.R., Motz, B.A., & Goldstone, R.L. (2016). An in vivo study of self-regulated study sequencing in introductory psychology courses. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0152115.

Study sequence can have a profound influence on learning. In this study we investigated how students decide to sequence their study in a naturalistic context and whether their choices result in improved learning. In the study reported here, 2061 undergraduate students enrolled in an Introductory Psychology course completed an online homework tutorial on measures of central tendency, a topic relevant to an exam that counted towards their grades. One group of students was enabled to choose their own study sequence during the tutorial (Self-Regulated group), while the other group of students studied the same materials in sequences chosen by other students (Yoked group). Students who chose their sequence of study showed a clear tendency to block their study by concept, and this tendency was positively associated with subsequent exam performance. In the Yoked group, study sequence had no effect on exam performance. These results suggest that despite findings that blocked study is maladaptive when assigned by an experimenter, it may actually be adaptive when chosen by the learner in a naturalistic context.

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Index of Supplemental Videos for “An Integrated Computational Model of Perception and Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism”

Below is an index of supplemental videos for the manuscript:

Lara-Dammer, F., Hofstadter, D. R., & Goldstone, R. L. (under review).An Integrated Computational Model of Perception and Scientific Discovery in a Very Simple World, Aiming at Psychological Realism

Overview V1

Plausible Approach V1

Plausible Approach V2

Object Identification V1

Object Identification V2

Object Identification V3

Object Identification V4

Object Identification V5

Same Angle V1

Same Angle V2

Ambiguous Event V1

Ambiguous Event V2

Direction Parameter V1

Direction Parameter V2

Direction Parameter V3

Direction Parameter V4

Direction Parameter V5

Stability V1

Stability V2

First Discovery 1

First Discovery 2

First Discovery 3

First Discovery 4

Pressure 1

Pressure 2

Pressure 3

Pressure 4

Kinetic Energy 1

Kinetic Energy 2

Kinetic Energy 3

Kinetic Energy 4

Free Space 1

Free Space 2

Free Space in a Circle (Tricycle)

Boyle’s Law Sophisticated A (Tricycle)

Boyle’s Law Sophisticated B (Tricycle)

Boyle’s Law Sophisticated C (Tricycle)

Non-ideal Gas A (non-success, Tricycle)

Non-ideal Gas B (Tricycle)

Non-ideal Gas C (Tricycle)

Understanding Noise (Tricycle)

Failed Discovery (Tricycle)

Thinking in Groups A (Tricycle)

Thinking in Groups B (Tricycle)

Informal mechanisms in mathematical cognitive development: The case of arithmetic

Braithwaite, D. W., Goldstone, R. L., van der Maas, H. L . J., & Landy, D. H. (2016).  Informal mechanisms in mathematical cognitive development: The case of arithmetic.  Cognition, 149, 40-55.

The idea that cognitive development involves a shift towards abstraction has a long history in psychology.¬†One incarnation of this idea holds that development in the domain of mathematics involves a shift¬†from non-formal mechanisms to formal rules and axioms. Contrary to this view, the present study provides¬†evidence that reliance on non-formal mechanisms may actually increase with age. Participants ‚ÄstDutch primary school children ‚Äď evaluated three-term arithmetic expressions in which violation of formally¬†correct order of evaluation led to errors, termed foil errors. Participants solved the problems as part¬†of their regular mathematics practice through an online study platform, and data were collected from¬†over 50,000 children representing approximately 10% of all primary schools in the Netherlands, suggesting¬†that the results have high external validity. Foil errors were more common for problems in which formally¬†lower-priority sub-expressions were spaced close together, and also for problems in which such¬†sub-expressions were relatively easy to calculate. We interpret these effects as resulting from reliance¬†on two non-formal mechanisms, perceptual grouping and opportunistic selection, to determine order¬†of evaluation. Critically, these effects reliably increased with participants‚Äô grade level, suggesting that¬†these mechanisms are not phased out but actually become more important over development, even when¬†they cause systematic violations of formal rules. This conclusion presents a challenge for the shift¬†towards abstraction view as a description of cognitive development in arithmetic. Implications of this¬†result for educational practice are discussed.

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Integration of social information by human groups

Granovskiy, B., Gold, J. M., Sumpter, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015). Integration of social information by human groups. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7, 469-493.

We consider a situation in which individuals search for accurate decisions without direct feedback on¬†their accuracy, but with information about the decisions made by peers in their group. The ‚Äúwisdom of¬†crowds‚ÄĚ hypothesis states that the average judgment of many individuals can give a good estimate of, for¬†example, the outcomes of sporting events and the answers to trivia questions. Two conditions for the¬†application of wisdom of crowds are that estimates should be independent and unbiased. Here, we study¬†how individuals integrate social information when answering trivia questions with answers that range¬†between 0% and 100% (e.g., ‚ÄúWhat percentage of Americans are left-handed?‚ÄĚ). We find that, consistent¬†with the wisdom of crowds hypothesis, average performance improves with group size. However, individuals¬†show a consistent bias to produce estimates that are insufficiently extreme. We find that social¬†information provides significant, albeit small, improvement to group performance. Outliers with answers¬†far from the correct answer move toward the position of the group mean. Given that these outliers also¬†tend to be nearer to 50% than do the answers of other group members, this move creates group polarization¬†away from 50%. By looking at individual performance over different questions we find that some¬†people are more likely to be affected by social influence than others. There is also evidence that people¬†differ in their competence in answering questions, but lack of competence is not significantly correlated¬†with willingness to change guesses. We develop a mathematical model based on these results that postulates¬†a cognitive process in which people first decide whether to take into account peer guesses, and if so,¬†to move in the direction of these guesses. The size of the move is proportional to the distance between¬†their own guess and the average guess of the group. This model closely approximates the distribution of¬†guess movements and shows how outlying incorrect opinions can be systematically removed from a¬†group resulting, in some situations, in improved group performance. However, improvement is only predicted¬†for cases in which the initial guesses of individuals in the group are biased.

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Effectiveness of learner-regulated study sequence: An in-vivo study in introductory psychology courses

Cavalho, P. F., Braithwaite, D. W., de Leeuw, J. R., Motz, B. A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Effectiveness of learner-regulated study sequence: An in-vivo study in introductory psychology courses.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 309-314).  Pasadena, CA: Cognitive Science Society.

Study sequence can have a profound impact on learning. Previous research has often shown advantages for interleaved over blocked study, though the reverse has also been found. Learners typically prefer blocking even in situations for which interleaving is superior. The present study investigated learner regulation of study sequence, and its effects on learning in an ecologically valid context ‚Äď university students using an online tutorial relevant to an exam that counted toward their course grades. The majority of participants blocked study by problem category, and this tendency was positively associated with subsequent exam performance. The results suggest that preference for blocked study may be adaptive under some circumstances, and highlight the importance of identifying task environments under which different study sequences are most effective.

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Brain self-portraits: the cognitive science of visualizing neural structure and function

Goldstone, R. L., Börner, K., & Pestilli, F. (2015).  Brain self-portraits: the cognitive science of visualizing neural structure and function.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 462-474.

With several large-scale human brain projects currently underway and a range of neuroimaging techniques growing in availability to researchers, the amount and diversity of data relevant for understanding the human brain is increasing rapidly. A complete understanding of the brain must incorporate information about 3D neural location, activity, timing, and task. Data mining, highperformance computing, and visualization can serve as tools that augment human intellect; however, the resulting visualizations must take into account human abilities and limitations to be effective tools for exploration and communication. In this feature review, we discuss key challenges and opportunities that arise when leveraging the sophisticated perceptual and conceptual processing of the human brain to help researchers understand brain structure, function, and behavior.

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Homo Socialis and Homo Sapiens

Goldstone, R. L. (2015).  Homo Socialis and Homo Sapiens.  Review of Behavioral Economics, 2, 77-87.

[This paper is a commentary on the following article: Gintis, H., & Helbing, D. (2015). Homo Socialis: An Analytical Core for Sociological Theory.  Review of Behavioral Economics.]

Explaining how patterns of collective behavior emerge from interactions among individuals with diverse, sometimes opposing, goals is a societally crucial and particularly timely pursuit. It is timely because humans are more tightly connected to one another now than ever before. From 1984 to 2014 there has been more than a million-fold increase in the number of devices that can reach the global digital network. Although web technology is new and transformative, from a broader perspective, it is also just a recent manifestation of humanity’s perpetual drive to become more intermeshed. Earlier manifestations of this drive include the printing press, global transportation networks, telecommunication systems, and the academy. These social networks have catalyzed the formation of otherwise unattainable social patterns. Understanding the origins and possible destinations of these social patterns is both scientifically and pragmatically consequential.

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Benefits of variation increase with preparation

Braithwaite, D. W., & Goldstone, R. L. (2014).  Benefits of variation increase with preparation.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Sixth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1940-1945).  Quebec City, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.

Abstract concepts are characterized by their underlying structure rather than superficial features. Variation in the examples used to teach abstract concepts can draw attention towards shared structure and away from superficial detail, but too much variation can inhibit learning. The present study tested the possibility that increasing attention to underlying structural relations could alleviate the latter difficulty and thereby increase the benefits of varied examples. Participants were trained with either varied or similar examples of a mathematical concept, and were then tested on their ability to apply the concept to new cases. Before training, some participants received pre training aimed at increasing attention to the structural relations underlying the concept. The relative advantage of varied over similar examples was increased among participants who received the pretraining. Thus, preparation that promotes attention to the relations underlying abstract concepts can increase the benefits of learning from varied examples.

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Cycles and predictability in human collective behavior: An experimental generalization of Rock-Scissors-Paper

Here are some reports of our PLoS One paper on human collective behavior studying cyclic patterns in a generalization of the familiar rock-scissors-paper game.  We find situations in which groups of people grow increasingly predictable as they cycle around a set of choice options in a game similar to rock-scissors-paper but with 24 rather than 3 choices.

Social Learning Strategies in a Networked Group

Wisdom, T. N., Song, X., & Goldstone, R. L. (2013). Social Learning Strategies in a Networked Group.  Cognitive Science, 37, 1383-1425

When making decisions, humans can observe many kinds of information about others’ activities, but their effects on performance are not well understood. We investigated social learning strategies using a simple problem-solving task in which participants search a complex space, and each can view and imitate others’ solutions. Results showed that participants combined multiple sources of information to guide learning, including payoffs of peers’ solutions, popularity of solution elements among peers, similarity of peers’ solutions to their own, and relative payoffs from individual exploration. Furthermore, performance was positively associated with imitation rates at both the individual and group levels. When peers’ payoffs were hidden, popularity and similarity biases reversed, participants searched more broadly and randomly, and both quality and equity of exploration suffered. We conclude that when peers’ solutions can be effectively compared, imitation does not simply permit scrounging, but it can also facilitate propagation of good solutions for further cumulative exploration.

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See a movie of Creature League experiment in action

Integrating formal and grounded representations in combinatorics learning

Braithwaite, D. W., & Goldstone, R. L. (2013).  Integrating formal and grounded representations in combinatorics learning.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 666-682.

The terms concreteness fading and progressive formalization have been used to describe instructional approaches to science and mathematics that use grounded representations to introduce concepts and later transition to more formal representations of the same concepts. There are both theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that such an approach may improve learning outcomes relative to instruction employing only grounded or only formal representations (Freudenthal, 1991; Goldstone & Son, 2005; McNeil & Fyfe, 2012; but see Kaminski, Sloutsky, & Heckler, 2008). Two experiments tested the effectiveness of this approach to instruction in the mathematical domain of combinatorics, using outcome listing and numerical calculation as examples of grounded and formal representations, respectively. The study employed a pretest-training, posttest design. Transfer performance, that is, participants’ improvement from pretest to posttest, was used to assess the effectiveness of instruction received during training. In Experiment 1, transfer performance was compared for 4 types of instruction, which differed only in the types of representation they employed: pure listing (i.e., listing only), pure formalism (i.e., numerical calculation only), list fading (i.e., listing followed by numerical calculation), and formalism first (i.e., listing introduced after numerical calculation). List fading instruction led to transfer performance on par with pure formalism instruction and higher than formalism first and pure listing instruction. In Experiment 2, an enhanced version of list fading training was again compared to pure formalism. However, no difference in transfer performance due to training was found. The results suggest that combining grounded and formal representations can be an effective approach to combinatorics instruction but is not necessarily preferable to using formal representations alone. If both grounded and formal representations are employed, the former should precede rather than follow the latter in the instructional sequence.

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Cyclic game dynamics driven by iterated reasoning

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2013). Cyclic game dynamics driven by iterated reasoning. PLoS One, 8(2): e56416. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056416

Recent theories from complexity science argue that complex dynamics are ubiquitous in social and economic systems. These claims emerge from the analysis of individually simple agents whose collective behavior is surprisingly complicated. However, economists have argued that iterated reasoning‚Äďwhat you think I think you think‚Äďwill suppress complex dynamics by stabilizing or accelerating convergence to Nash equilibrium. We report stable and efficient periodic behavior in human groups playing the Mod Game, a multi-player game similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors. The game rewards subjects for thinking exactly one step ahead of others in their group. Groups that play this game exhibit cycles that are inconsistent with any fixed-point solution concept. These cycles are driven by a ‚Äė‚Äėhopping‚Äô‚Äô behavior that is consistent with other accounts of iterated reasoning: agents are constrained to about two steps of iterated reasoning and learn an additional one-half step with each session. If higher-order reasoning can be complicit in complex emergent dynamics, then cyclic and chaotic patterns may be endogenous features of real-world social and economic systems.
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See a movie of actual humans (shown as Xs) playing the Mod Game.  Notice the clumping of their moves and their regular progression around the circle of choices.

Benefits of Graphical and Symbolic Representations for Learning and Transfer of Statistical Concepts

Braithwaite, D. W, & Goldstone, R. L. (2013).  Benefits of Graphical and Symbolic Representations for Learning and Transfer of Statistical Concepts.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Fifth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1928-1933).  Berlin, Germany: Cognitive Science Society.

Past research suggests that spatial configurations play an important role in graph comprehension. The present study investigates consequences of this fact for the relative utility of graphs and tables for interpreting data. Participants judged presence or absence of various statistical effects in simulated datasets presented in various formats. For the statistical effects introduced earlier in the study, performance was better with graphs than with tables, while for the effect introduced last in the study, this trend reversed. Additionally, in the later sections of the study, responses with graphs, but not tables, reflected increasing influence from the presence of stimulus features which had been relevant earlier in the study, but were no longer relevant. The findings suggest that graphs, relative to tables, may better facilitate perception of complex relationships among data points, but may also bias readers more strongly to favor some perspectives over others when interpreting data.

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An experiment on the cognitive complexity of code

Hansen, M. E., Lumsdaine, A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2013).  An experiment on the cognitive complexity of code.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Fifth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Berlin, Germany: Cognitive Science Society.

What simple factors impact the cognitive complexity of code? We present an experiment in which participants predict the output of ten small Python programs. Even with such simple programs, we find a complex relationship between code, expertise, and correctness. We use subtle differences between program versions to demonstrate that small notational changes can have profound effects on comprehension. We catalog common errors for each program, and perform an in-depth data analysis to uncover effects on response correctness and speed.

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Cognitive Architectures: A Way Forward for the Psychology of Programming

Hansen, M. E., Lumsdaine, A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2012).  Cognitive Architectures: A Way Forward for the Psychology of Programming.  Onward! Workshop at the Third Annual SPLASH Conference 2012.

Programming language and library designers often debate the usability of particular design choices. These choices may impact many developers, yet scientific evidence for them is rarely provided. Cognitive models of program comprehension have existed for over thirty years, but lack quantitative definitions of their internal components and processes. To ease the burden of quantifying existing models, we recommend using the ACT-R cognitive architecture: a simulation framework for psychological models. In this paper, we provide a high-level overview of modern cognitive architectures while concentrating on the details of ACT-R. We review an existing quantitative program comprehension model, and consider how it could be simplified and implemented within the ACT-R framework. Lastly, we discuss the challenges and potential benefits associated with building a comprehensive cognitive model on top of a cognitive architecture.

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Inducing mathematical concepts from specific examples: The role of schema-level variation

Braithwaite, D. W., & Goldstone, R. L. (2012).  Inducing mathematical concepts from specific examples: The role of schema-level variation.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 138-143).  Sapporo, Japan: Cognitive Science Society.

Previous research suggests that comparing multiple specific examples of a general concept can promote knowledge transfer. The present study investigated whether this approach could be made more effective by systematic variation in the semantic content of the specific examples. Participants received instruction in a mathematical concept in the context of several examples, which instantiated either a single semantic schema (non-varied condition) or two different schemas (varied condition). Schema-level variation during instruction led to better knowledge transfer, as predicted. However, this advantage was limited to participants with relatively high performance before instruction. Variation also improved participants’ ability to describe the target concept in abstract terms. Surprisingly, however, this ability was not associated with successful knowledge transfer.
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Teaching the Perceptual Structure of Algebraic Expressions: Preliminary Findings from the Pushing Symbols Intervention

Ottmar, E., Landy, D., & Goldstone, R. L. (2012).  Teaching the Perceptual Structure of Algebraic Expressions: Preliminary Findings from the Pushing Symbols Intervention.  Proceedings of the Thirty- Fourth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 2156-2161).  Sapporo, Japan: Cognitive Science Society.

We describe an intervention being developed by our research team, Pushing Symbols (PS). This intervention is designed to encourage learners to treat symbol systems as physical objects that move and change over time according to dynamic principles. We provide students with the opportunities to explore algebraic structure by physically manipulating and interacting with concrete and virtual symbolic systems that enforce rules through constraints on physical transformations. Here we present an instantiation of this approach aimed at helping students learn the structure of algebraic notation in general, and in particular learn to simplify like terms. This instantiation combines colored symbol tiles with a new touchscreen software technology adapted from the commercial Algebra Touch software. We present preliminary findings from a study with 70 middle-school students who participated in the PS intervention over a three-hour period.
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Improving Perception to Make Distant Connections Closer

Goldstone, R. L., Landy, D., & Brunel, L. (2011). Improving Perception to Make Distant Connections Closer. Frontiers in Perception Science, 2.

One of the challenges for perceptually grounded accounts of high-level cognition is to explain how people make connections and draw inferences between situations that superficially have little in common.  Evidence suggests that people draw these connections even without having explicit, verbalizable knowledge of their bases.  Instead, the connections are based on sub-symbolic representations that are grounded in perception, action, and space.  One reason why people are able to spontaneously see relations between situations that initially appear to be unrelated is that their eventual perceptions are not restricted to initial appearances.  Training and strategic deployment allow our perceptual processes to deliver outputs that would have otherwise required abstract or formal reasoning.  Even without people having any privileged access to the internal operations of perceptual modules, these modules can be systematically altered so as to better subserve our high-level reasoning needs.  Moreover, perceptually-based processes can be altered in a number of ways to closely approximate formally sanctioned computations.

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Innovation, imitation, and problem-solving in a networked group

Wisdom, T. N., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011).  Innovation, imitation, and problem-solving in a networked group.  Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, 15, 229-252.

We implemented a problem-solving task in which groups of participants simultaneously played a simple innovation game in a complex problem space, with score feedback provided after each of a number of rounds. Each participant in a group was allowed to view and imitate the guesses of others during the game. The results showed the use of social learning strategies previously studied in other species, and demonstrated benefits of social learning and nonlinear effects of group size on strategy and performance. Rather than simply encouraging conformity, groups provided information to each individual about the distribution of useful innovations in the problem space. Imitation facilitated innovation rather than displacing it, because the former allowed good solutions to be propagated and preserved for further cumulative innovations in the group. Participants generally improved their solutions through the use of fairly conservative strategies, such as changing only a small portion of one’s solution at a time, and tending to imitate solutions similar to one’s own. Changes in these strategies over time had the effect of making solutions increasingly entrenched, both at individual and group levels. These results showed evidence of nonlinear dynamics in the decentralization of innovation, the emergence of group phenomena from complex interactions of individual efforts, stigmergy in the use of social information, and dynamic tradeoffs between exploration and exploitation of solutions. These results also support the idea that innovation and creativity can be recognized at the group level even when group members are generally cautious and imitative.

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Going with the group in a competitive game of iterated reasoning

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011).  Going with the group in a competitive game of iterated reasoning.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1912-1917).  Boston, Massachusetts: Cognitive Science Society.

In some strategic games, thinking ahead about other players’ reasoning can lead to better predictions about what they will do. In other games, infinitely iterated reasoning ultimately prescribes random play. In an online experiment of strategic thinking in groups, we tested participants in a game with the formal structure of a random game, but the superficial struc- ture of a game that rewards iterated reasoning. We found that participants conformed to the superficial structure of the game, and earned more than they would have by playing randomly. We estimated how many steps participants thought ahead in the game and discovered implicit coordination at the group level. Participants unexpectedly “matched” their degree of iterated thinking to each other.

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Adaptive group coordination and role differentiation

Roberts, M. E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011).  Adaptive Group Coordination and Role Differentiation.  PLoS One, 6, 1-8.

Many real world situations (potluck dinners, academic departments, sports teams, corporate divisions, committees, seminar classes, etc.) involve actors adjusting their contributions in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory group goal, a win-win result. However, the majority of human group research has involved situations where groups perform poorly because task constraints promote either individual maximization behavior or diffusion of responsibility, and even successful tasks generally involve the propagation of one correct solution through a group. Here we introduce a group task that requires complementary actions among participants in order to reach a shared goal. Without communication, group members submit numbers in an attempt to collectively sum to a randomly selected target number. After receiving group feedback, members adjust their submitted numbers until the target number is reached. For all groups, performance improves with task experience, and group reactivity decreases over rounds. Our empirical results provide evidence for adaptive coordination in human groups, and as the coordination costs increase with group size, large groups adapt through spontaneous role differentiation and self-consistency among members. We suggest several agent-based models with different rules for agent reactions, and we show that the empirical results are best fit by a flexible, adaptive agent strategy in which agents decrease their reactions when the group feedback changes. The task offers a simple experimental platform for studying the general problem of group coordination while maximizing group returns, and we distinguish the task from several games in behavioral game theory.

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Learning near-optimal search in a minimal explore/exploit task

Sang, K., Todd, P. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011). Learning near-optimal search in a minimal explore/exploit task. Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. (pp. 2800-2805). Boston, Massachusetts: Cognitive Science Society.

How well do people search an environment for non-depleting resources of different quality, where it is necessary to switch between exploring for new resources and exploiting those already found? Employing a simple card selection task to study exploitation and exploration, we find that the total resources accrued, the number of switches between exploring and exploiting, and the number of trials until stable exploitation becomes more similar to those of the optimal strategy as experience increases across searches. Subjects learned to adjust their effective (implicit) thresholds for exploitation toward the optimal threshold over 30 searches. Those implicit thresholds decrease over turns within each search, just as the optimal threshold does, but subjects’ explicitly stated exploitation threshold increases over turns. Nonetheless, both the explicit and learned implicit thresholds produced performance close to optimal.

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Connecting instances to promote children’s relational reasoning

Son, J. Y., Smith, L. B., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011). Connecting instances to promote children’s relational reasoning.¬†¬†Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108, 260-277.

The practice of learning from multiple instances seems to allow children to learn about relational structure. The experiments reported here have focused on two issues regarding relational learning from multiple instances: (1) what kind of perceptual situations foster such learning and (2) how particular object properties, such as complexity or similarity, interact with relational learning. Two kinds of perceptual situations were of interest here: simultaneous view, where instances are viewed at once, and sequential view, instances are viewed one at a time, one right after the other. We examine the influence of particular perceptual situations and object properties using two tests of relational reasoning: a common match-to-sample task (where new instances are compared to a common sample) and a variable match-to-sample task (where new instances are compared to a sample that varies on each trial). Experiments 1 and 2 indicate that simultaneous presentation of even highly dissimilar instances, one simple and one complex, effectively connects them together and improves relational generalization in both match-to-sample tasks. Experiment 3 showed simple samples are more effective than complex ones in the common match-to-sample task. However, when one instance is not used a common sample and various pairs of instances are simply compared (Experiment 4), simple and rich instances are equally effective at promoting relational learning. These results bear on our understanding of how children connect instances and how those initial connections affect learning and generalization.

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Analogical Transfer from a Simulated Physical System

Day, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2011).  Analogical transfer from a simulated physical system.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37,551-567.

Previous research has consistently found that spontaneous analogical transfer is strongly tied to concrete and contextual similarities between the cases. However, that work has largely failed to acknowledge that the relevant factor in transfer is the similarity between individuals’ mental representations of the situations, rather than the overt similarities between the cases themselves. Across several studies, we find that participants are able to transfer strategies learned from a perceptually concrete simulation of a physical system to a task with very dissimilar content and appearance. This transfer is reflected in better performance on the transfer task when its underlying dynamics are consistent rather than inconsistent with the preceding training task. Our data indicate that transfer in these tasks relies on the perceptual and spatial nature of the training task, but does not depend on direct interaction with the system, with participants performing equally well after simply observing the concrete simulation. We argue that participants in these studies are using the concrete, spatial, dynamic information presented in the training simulation as the basis for a concretely similar mental model of the dissimilar transfer task. Unexpectedly, our data consistently showed that transfer was independent of reported recognition of the analogy between tasks: while such recognition was associated with better overall performance, it was not associated with better transfer (in terms of applying an appropriate strategy). Together, these findings suggest that analogical transfer between overtly dissimilar cases may be much more common‚ÄĒand much more relevant to our cognitive processing‚ÄĒthan is generally assumed.

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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.

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Functional structure and coordination failure in real-time group behavior

Frey, S., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Functional Structure and Coordination Failure in Real-Time Group Behavior. Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 2093-2098).  Portland, Oregon: Cognitive Science Society.

We reveal spontaneous group formation and differentiation in an online dynamic coordination experiment. We observe increased group stratification and attribute it to increases in pairwise cooperative behavior, rather than uncooperative behavior. Our network analyses document the fine scale structure of coordination failure in the face of many established determinants of coordination success. We explore previous work in coordination failure to frame our own findings. Factors that have been previously shown to improve coordination in discretetime, forced-decision experimental games do not prevent decisive coordination failure in our real-time, asynchronous group decision-making environment.

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Priming a central executive search process: exploration and exploitation in generalized cognitive search processes

Hills, T. T., Todd, P. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Priming a Central Executive Search Process: Exploration and Exploitation in Generalized Cognitive Search Processes.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 560-609.

The trade-off between exploration and exploitation is common to a wide variety of problems involving search in space and mind. The prevalence of this trade-off and its neurological underpinnings led us to propose domain-general cognitive search processes (Hills, Todd, & Goldstone, 2008). We propose further that these are consistent with the idea of a central executive search process that combines goal-handling across subgoal hierarchies. In the present study, we investigate 3 aspects of this proposal. First, the existence of a unitary central executive search process should allow priming from 1 search task to another and at multiple hierarchical levels. We confirm this by showing cross-domain priming from a spatial search task to 2 different cognitive levels within a lexical search task. Second, given the neural basis of the proposed generalized cognitive search process and the evidence that the central executive is primarily engaged during complex tasks, we hypothesize that priming should require search in the sense of a self-regulated making and testing of sequential predictions about the world. This was confirmed by showing that when participants were allowed to collect spatial resources without searching for them, no priming occurred. Finally, we provide a mechanism for the underlying search process and investigate 3 alternative hypotheses for subgoal hierarchies using the central executive as a search process model (CESP). CESP envisions the central executive as having both emergent and unitary processes, with one of its roles being a generalized cognitive search process that navigates goal hierarchies by mediating persistence on and switching between subgoals.

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Proximity and precedence in arithmetic

Landy, D. H., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010).  Proximity and precedence in arithmetic. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1953-1968.

How does the physical structure of an arithmetic expression affect the computational processes engaged in by reasoners? In handwritten arithmetic expressions containing both multiplications and additions, terms that are multiplied are often placed physically closer together than terms that are added. Three experiments evaluate the role such physical factors play in how reasoners construct solutions to simple compound arithmetic expressions (such as ‚Äú2 + 3 √ó 4‚ÄĚ). Two kinds of influence are found: First, reasoners incorporate the physical size of the expression into numerical responses, tending to give larger responses to more widely spaced problems. Second, reasoners use spatial information as a cue to hierarchical expression structure: More narrowly spaced subproblems within an expression tend to be solved first and tend to be multiplied. Although spatial relationships besides order are entirely formally irrelevant to expression semantics, reasoners systematically use these relationships to support their success with various formal properties.

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When do words promote analogical transfer?

Son, J. Y., Doumas, L. A., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010).  When do words promote analogical transfer?  The Journal of Problem Solving, 3, 52-92.

The purpose of this paper is to explore how and when verbal labels facilitate relational reasoning and transfer. We review the research and theory behind two ways words might direct attention to relational information: (1) words generically invite people to compare and thus highlight relations (the Generic Tokens [GT] hypothesis), and/or (2) words carry semantic cues to common structure (the Cues to Specific Meaning [CSM] hypothesis). Four experiments examined whether learning Signal Detection Theory (SDT) with relational words fostered better transfer than learning without relational words in easily alignable and less alignable situations (testing the GT hypothesis) as well as when the relational words matched and mismatched the semantics of the learning situation (testing the CSM hypothesis). The results of the experiments found support for the GT hypothesis because the presence of relational labels produced better transfer when two situations were alignable. Although the CSM hypothesis does not explain how words facilitate transfer, we found that mismatches between words and their labeled referents can produce a situation where words hinder relational learning.

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Recognizing group cognition

Theiner, G, Allen, C., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Recognizing group cognition. Cognitive Systems Research, 11, 378-395.

In this paper, we approach the idea of group cognition from the perspective of the ”extended mind” thesis, as a special case of the more general claim that systems larger than the individual human, but containing that human, are capable of cognition (Clark, 2008; Clark & Chalmers, 1998). Instead of deliberating about ”the mark of the cognitive” (Adams & Aizawa, 2008), our discussion of group cognition is tied to particular cognitive capacities. We review recent studies of group problem solving and group memory which reveal that specific cognitive capacities that are commonly ascribed to individuals are also aptly ascribed at the level of groups. These case studies show how dense interactions among people within a group lead to both similarity-inducing and differentiating dynamics that affect the group’s ability to solve problems. This supports our claim that groups have organization-dependent cognitive capacities that go beyond the simple aggregation of the cognitive capacities of individuals. Group cognition is thus an emergent phenomenon in the sense of Wimsatt (1986). We further argue that anybody who rejects our strategy for showing that cognitive properties can be instantiated at multiple levels in the organizational hierarchy on a priori grounds is a ”demergentist,” and thus incurs the burden of proof for explaining why cognitive properties are ”stuck” at a certain level of organizational structure. Finally, we show that our analysis of group cognition escapes the ”coupling-constitution” charge that has been leveled against the extended mind thesis (Adams & Aizawa, 2008).

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Social Learning and Cumulative Mutual Improvement in a Networked Group

Wisdom, T. N., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Social Learning and Cumulative Mutual Improvement in a Networked Group.  Proceedings of the Thirty-Second Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.  (pp. 1405-1410).  Portland, Oregon: Cognitive Science Society.

We used a simple problem-solving game task to study imitation and innovation in groups of participants. Guesses were composed of multiple elements with linear and interactive effects on score, and score feedback was provided after each of a number of rounds. Participants were allowed to view and imitate the guesses of others during each round, and the score information accompanying others’ guesses was either shown or hidden in two conditions. When scores were not visible, social learning was impeded; participants were less efficient in their searching of the problem space and achieved lower performance overall. When scores were visible, higher performance was observed, and results indicated a more equitable sharing of productive exploration among participants within groups as a result of selective imitation and cross-participant cumulative mutual innovations.

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How you named your child: Understanding the relationship between individual decision-making and collective outcomes

Gureckis, T. M., & Goldstone, R. L. (2009). How you named your child: Understanding the relationship between individual decision-making and collective outcomes. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 651-674.

We examine the interdependence between individual and group behavior surrounding a somewhat arbitrary, real world decision: selecting a name for
one’s child. Using a historical database of the names given to children over the last century in the United States, we nd that naming choices are influenced by both the frequency of a name in the general population, and by its “momentum” in the recent past in the sense that names which are growing in popularity are preferentially chosen. This bias toward rising names is a recent phenomena: in the early part of the 20th century, increasing popularity of a name from one time period to the next was correlated with a decrease in future popularity. However, more recently this trend has reversed. We evaluate a number of formal models that detail how individual decision-making strategies, played out in a large population of interacting agents, can explain these empirical observations. We argue that cognitive capacities for change detection, the encoding of frequency in memory, and biases towards novel or incongruous stimuli may interact with the behavior of other decision makers to determine the distribution and dynamics of cultural tokens such as names.

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Analogical transfer from interaction with a simulated physical system

Day, S. B., & Goldstone, R. L. (2009).  Analogical transfer from interaction with a simulated physical system. Proceedings of the Thirty-First Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1406-1411. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Cognitive Science Society.

[See also  Day & Goldstone, (2011) Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory, and Cognition]

In two studies, we find that participants are able to transfer strategies learned while interacting with a simulated physical system to a dissimilar and less perceptually-concrete domain. Interestingly, performance on the transfer task was completely unrelated to explicit knowledge of the structural correspondences between the systems. We suggest that direct interaction with a concrete system may lead to a kind of procedural knowledge that provides a good basis for analogical transfer.

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Collective behavior

Goldstone, R. L. & Gureckis, T. M. (2009).  Collective behavior. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1, 412-438.

The resurgence of interest in collective behavior is in large part due to tools recently made available for conducting laboratory experiments on groups, statistical methods for analyzing large data sets reflecting social interactions, the rapid growth of a diverse variety of online self-organized collectives, and computational modeling methods for understanding both universal and scenario-specific social patterns. We consider case studies of collective behavior along four attributes: the primary motivation of individuals within the group, kinds of interactions among individuals, typical dynamics that result from these interactions, and characteristic outcomes at the group level. With this framework, we compare the collective patterns of noninteracting decision makers, bee swarms, groups forming paths in physical and abstract spaces, sports teams, cooperation and competition for resource usage, and the spread and extension of innovations in an online community. Some critical issues surrounding collective behavior are then reviewed, including the questions of ‚Äė‚ÄėDoes group behavior always reduce to individual behavior?‚Äô‚Äô ‚Äė‚ÄėIs ‚Äėgroup cognition‚Äô possible?‚Äô‚Äô and ‚Äė‚ÄėWhat is the value of formal modeling for understanding group behavior?‚Äô‚Äô

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How much of symbolic manipulation is just symbol pushing?

Landy, D. H., & Goldstone, R. L. (2009).  How much of symbolic manipulation is just symbol pushing? Proceedings of the Thirty-First Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1072-1077. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Cognitive Science Society.

This paper explores the hypothesis that schematic abstraction‚ÄĒrule following‚ÄĒis partially implemented through processes and knowledge used to understand motion. Two experiments explore the mechanisms used by reasoners solving simple linear equations with one variable. Participants solved problems displayed against a background that moved rightward or leftward. Solving was facilitated when the background motion moved in the direction of the numeric transposition required to solve for the unknown variable. Previous theorizing has usually assumed that such formal problems are solved through the repeated application of abstract transformation patterns (rules) to equations, replicating the steps produced in typical worked solutions. However, the current results suggest that in addition to such strategies, advanced reasoners often employ a mental motion strategy when manipulating algebraic forms: elements of the problem are ‚Äúpicked up‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúmoved‚ÄĚ across the equation line. This demonstration supports the suggestion that genuinely schematic reasoning could be implemented in perceptual-motor systems through the simulated transformation of referential (but physical) symbol systems.

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Adaptive group coordination

Roberts, M. E., & Goldstone, R. L. (2009).  Adaptive group coordination, Proceedings of the Thirty-First Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. 2698-2704. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Cognitive Science Society.

Human groups exhibit poor performance in many social situations because task constraints promote either individual maximization behavior or diffusion of responsibility. We introduce a group task that tests human coordination when only a shared group goal exists. Without communication, group members submit numbers in an attempt to collectively sum to a randomly selected number. After receiving group feedback, members adjust their submitted numbers in the next round. Small groups generally outperform large groups, and for all groups, performance improves with task experience, and reactivity to feedback decreases over rounds. Our empirical results and computational modeling provide evidence for adaptive coordination in human groups despite minimal shared history and only indirect communication, and perhaps most interestingly, as the coordination costs increase with group size, large groups adapt through spontaneous role differentiation and self-consistency among members.

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