Seeking ideal explanations in a non-ideal world

Citation:

Kon, E., & Lombrozo, T. (2018). Seeking ideal explanations in a non-ideal world. T. T. Rogers, M. Rau, X. Zhu, & C. W. Kalish (Ed.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (1939-1944) . Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
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Abstract:

Research has found that when children or adults attempt to explain novel observations in the course of learning, they are more likely to discover patterns that support ideal explanations: explanations that are maximally simple and broad. However, not all learning contexts support such explanations. Can explaining facilitate discovery nonetheless? We present a study in which participants were tasked with discovering a rule governing the classification of items, where the items were consistent two non-ideal rules: one correctly classified 66% of cases, the other 83%. We find that when there is no ideal rule to be discovered (i.e., no 100% rule), participants prompted to explain are better than control participants at discovering the best available rule (i.e., the 83% rule). This supports the idea that seeking ideal explanations can be beneficial in a non-ideal world because the pursuit of an ideal explanation can facilitate the discovery of imperfect patterns along the way.

Last updated on 07/23/2019