Concept learning

What happens when hypothesis testing fails?

Robert C. Mathews, William B. Stanley, Ray Buss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The dominant model of concept learning in experimental psychology, the hypothesis testing model, is described and its applicability to education is questioned. One issue related to the generality of this model was tested by an experiment in which subjects attempted to figure out a simple but difficult to discover concept presented by exemplars over a long series of trials. Based on their performance on this task, subjects were categorized into three levels of concept attainment. It is argued that hypothesis testing theory adequately describes only the behavior of the most successful (Level 1) subjects. Based on the differential levels of performance on old vs. new items and the subjects’ verbal reports of their selection strategies, Level 2 subjects appear to have relied heavily on memorization of previously seen exemplars. However, their above-chance performance on the new (postcriterion) items indicates some level of concept attainment. Since most of these adult subjects were totally unable to verbalize even a partial statement of the rule, their knowledge of the concept cannot be adequately explained in terms of the hypothesis testing model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-96
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Education
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

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Experimental Psychology
hypothesis testing
Task Performance and Analysis
Learning
Education
learning
performance
experimental psychology
experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this

Concept learning : What happens when hypothesis testing fails? / Mathews, Robert C.; Stanley, William B.; Buss, Ray.

In: Journal of Experimental Education, Vol. 53, No. 2, 1985, p. 91-96.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Mathews, Robert C. ; Stanley, William B. ; Buss, Ray. / Concept learning : What happens when hypothesis testing fails?. In: Journal of Experimental Education. 1985 ; Vol. 53, No. 2. pp. 91-96.
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