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Mem Cognit. 1998 Jul;26(4):716-30.

Expertise as mental set: the effects of domain knowledge in creative problem solving.

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  • University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. jwiley@psych.umass.edu


Experts generally solve problems in their fields more effectively than novices because their well-structured, easily activated knowledge allows for efficient search of a solution space. But what happens when a problem requires a broad search for a solution? One concern is that subjects with a large amount of domain knowledge may actually be at a disadvantage, because their knowledge may confine them to an area of the search space in which the solution does not reside. In other words, domain knowledge may act as a mental set, promoting fixation in creative problem-solving attempts. A series of three experiments in which an adapted version of Mednick's (1962) remote associates task was used demonstrates conditions under which domain knowledge may inhibit creative problem solving.

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