Send to

Choose Destination
Trends Cogn Sci. 2016 Oct;20(10):748-759. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2016.08.001. Epub 2016 Aug 23.

Explanatory Preferences Shape Learning and Inference.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Electronic address:


Explanations play an important role in learning and inference. People often learn by seeking explanations, and they assess the viability of hypotheses by considering how well they explain the data. An emerging body of work reveals that both children and adults have strong and systematic intuitions about what constitutes a good explanation, and that these explanatory preferences have a systematic impact on explanation-based processes. In particular, people favor explanations that are simple and broad, with the consequence that engaging in explanation can shape learning and inference by leading people to seek patterns and favor hypotheses that support broad and simple explanations. Given the prevalence of explanation in everyday cognition, understanding explanation is therefore crucial to understanding learning and inference.


abduction; breadth; explanation; inference; learning; simplicity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center