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Cogn Psychol. 1994 Oct;27(2):194-226.

Constraints on learning in nonprivileged domains.

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Department of Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.


Constraints on learning, rather than being unique to evolutionarily privileged domains, may operate in nonprivileged domains as well. Understanding of the goals that strategies must meet seems to play an especially important role in these domains in constraining the strategies that are generated and in allowing children to evaluate strategies even before they use them. The present experiments showed that children can use their conceptual understanding to accurately evaluate strategies that they not only do not yet use but that are more conceptually advanced than the strategies they do use. In Experiment 1, 5-year-olds who did not yet use the min strategy for adding numbers judged it to be smarter than an equally novel illegitimate strategy, and to be just as smart as their typical strategy of counting from one. In Experiment 2, 9-year-olds who did not yet use the forking strategy to play tic-tac-toe judged it to be even smarter than their own win/block approach. The results demonstrated a large number of commonalities between the functioning of constraints in privileged and nonprivileged domains, as well as suggesting some possible differences.

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