Memory & Cognition

, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 1082-1093

First online:

Redescription disembeds relations: Evidence from relational transfer and use in problem solving

  • James A. DixonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Connecticut Email author 
  • , Matthew C. DohnAffiliated withRutgers University


How relational information becomes disembedded from its original context is an important issue for theories of cognition. Two experiments tested the hypothesis that a process calledredescription disembeds relations, resulting in abstract and, therefore, more transferable and robust representations. In Experiment 1, participants solved simple problems involving an alternating sequence. Participants who discovered the alternating-sequence relation through redescription transferred the relation to a second type of problem more quickly and used it more consistently than did participants who had been directly instructed on the alternating-sequence strategy. Experiment 2 showed similar effects for participants who discovered the alternating-sequence relation through redescription, as compared with participants who had discovered the relation through information available in the display. The present results converge with previous experimental and correlational evidence that suggests that redescription creates abstract representations of relations.