Rewilding cognition: complex dynamics in open experimental systems

Ross, Wendy and Vallée-Tourangeau, Frédéric (2021) Rewilding cognition: complex dynamics in open experimental systems. Journal of Trial and Error, 2 (1). ISSN 2667-1204


Insight problems are sometimes designed to encourage an incorrect and misleading interpretation that veils a simple answer. The socks problem is one such problem: Given black socks and brown socks in a drawer mixed in a ratio of 4 to 5, how many socks will you have to take out to make sure that you have a pair of the same colour? The ratio information is misleading since with only two colours, pulling three socks will guarantee a matching pair. Recently Vallée-Tourangeau and March (2020) offered a distinction between first and second order problem-solving: the former proceeds with and through a physical model of the problem, while the latter proceeds in the absence of such interactions with the world, in other words on the basis of mental processes alone. Vallée-Tourangeau and March also proposed a thought experiment, suggesting that the ratio information in the socks problem might be quickly abandoned in a first order environment, that is one where participants observe the results of drawing socks out of a bag, rather than imagining themselves doing so. We tested this prediction by randomly allocating participants to a low (second order) or high (first order) interactivity condition. Marginally more participants announced the correct answer within a 5-min period in the high than in the low condition, although the difference was not significant. Detailed analysis of the video recording revealed the challenges of operationalizing a second order condition, as participants engaged in dialogical interactions with the experimenter. In addition, the manner with which the high interactivity condition was designed appeared to encourage the physical reification of the misleading ratio, thus anchoring that information more firmly rather than defusing it through interactivity. We close the paper with some reflections on wide or systemic cognition in experimental research on creative problem-solving.

Ross & Vallée-Tourangeau (2021) Rewilding Cognition.docx - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (6MB)


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item