The hazards of explanation: Overgeneralization in the face of exceptions

Joseph Jay Williams, Tania Lombrozo, Bob Rehder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Seeking explanations is central to science, education, and everyday thinking, and prompting learners to explain is often beneficial. Nonetheless, in 2 category learning experiments across artifact and social domains, we demonstrate that the very properties of explanation that support learning can impair learning by fostering overgeneralizations. We find that explaining encourages learners to seek broad patterns, hindering learning when patterns involve exceptions. By revealing how effects of explanation depend on the structure of what is being learned, these experiments simultaneously demonstrate the hazards of explaining and provide evidence for why explaining is so often beneficial. For better or for worse, explaining recruits the remarkable human capacity to seek underlying patterns that go beyond individual observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1006-1014
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume142
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Fingerprint

Learning
Foster Home Care
Artifacts
Education
Hazard
Overgeneralization
Experiment
Category Learning
Science Education
Artifact
Thinking

Keywords

  • Anomalies
  • Explanation
  • Generalization
  • Overgeneralization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

Cite this

The hazards of explanation : Overgeneralization in the face of exceptions. / Williams, Joseph Jay; Lombrozo, Tania; Rehder, Bob.

In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 142, No. 4, 11.2013, p. 1006-1014.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Williams, Joseph Jay ; Lombrozo, Tania ; Rehder, Bob. / The hazards of explanation : Overgeneralization in the face of exceptions. In: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 2013 ; Vol. 142, No. 4. pp. 1006-1014.
@article{133e499997974e2c8bb3b06a90563e2f,
title = "The hazards of explanation: Overgeneralization in the face of exceptions",
abstract = "Seeking explanations is central to science, education, and everyday thinking, and prompting learners to explain is often beneficial. Nonetheless, in 2 category learning experiments across artifact and social domains, we demonstrate that the very properties of explanation that support learning can impair learning by fostering overgeneralizations. We find that explaining encourages learners to seek broad patterns, hindering learning when patterns involve exceptions. By revealing how effects of explanation depend on the structure of what is being learned, these experiments simultaneously demonstrate the hazards of explaining and provide evidence for why explaining is so often beneficial. For better or for worse, explaining recruits the remarkable human capacity to seek underlying patterns that go beyond individual observations.",
keywords = "Anomalies, Explanation, Generalization, Overgeneralization",
author = "Williams, {Joseph Jay} and Tania Lombrozo and Bob Rehder",
year = "2013",
month = "11",
doi = "10.1037/a0030996",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "142",
pages = "1006--1014",
journal = "Journal of Experimental Psychology: General",
issn = "0096-3445",
publisher = "American Psychological Association Inc.",
number = "4",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The hazards of explanation

T2 - Overgeneralization in the face of exceptions

AU - Williams, Joseph Jay

AU - Lombrozo, Tania

AU - Rehder, Bob

PY - 2013/11

Y1 - 2013/11

N2 - Seeking explanations is central to science, education, and everyday thinking, and prompting learners to explain is often beneficial. Nonetheless, in 2 category learning experiments across artifact and social domains, we demonstrate that the very properties of explanation that support learning can impair learning by fostering overgeneralizations. We find that explaining encourages learners to seek broad patterns, hindering learning when patterns involve exceptions. By revealing how effects of explanation depend on the structure of what is being learned, these experiments simultaneously demonstrate the hazards of explaining and provide evidence for why explaining is so often beneficial. For better or for worse, explaining recruits the remarkable human capacity to seek underlying patterns that go beyond individual observations.

AB - Seeking explanations is central to science, education, and everyday thinking, and prompting learners to explain is often beneficial. Nonetheless, in 2 category learning experiments across artifact and social domains, we demonstrate that the very properties of explanation that support learning can impair learning by fostering overgeneralizations. We find that explaining encourages learners to seek broad patterns, hindering learning when patterns involve exceptions. By revealing how effects of explanation depend on the structure of what is being learned, these experiments simultaneously demonstrate the hazards of explaining and provide evidence for why explaining is so often beneficial. For better or for worse, explaining recruits the remarkable human capacity to seek underlying patterns that go beyond individual observations.

KW - Anomalies

KW - Explanation

KW - Generalization

KW - Overgeneralization

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84887910075&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84887910075&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1037/a0030996

DO - 10.1037/a0030996

M3 - Article

VL - 142

SP - 1006

EP - 1014

JO - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

JF - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

SN - 0096-3445

IS - 4

ER -