Memory & Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 281–285

The effect of conscious controlled verbalization cognitive strategy on transfer in problem solving

  • Mary E. Ahlum-Heath
  • Francis J. Di Vesta

DOI: 10.3758/BF03197704

Cite this article as:
Ahlum-Heath, M.E. & Di Vesta, F.J. Memory & Cognition (1986) 14: 281. doi:10.3758/BF03197704


The effect of controlled verbalization on learning to solve complex problems was investigated. Fifty participants individually solved the six-disk Tower of Hanoi problem as a criterion task, following one of the five treatments represented in a 2 × 2 factorial design with an appended control group. One factor was the presence or absence of a practice series which required participants to provide verbal rationales for their moves. The other was the presence or absence of verbalization on the six-disk criterion task. The control participants performed the practice tasks and the criterion task without verbalization. Although practice tended to be more effective than no practice for improving performance, its strongest effect occurred when it was coupled with controlled verbalization. Controlled verbalization during the criterion task facilitated performance, but only for subjects who received no prior practice. It was concluded that verbalization was most helpful during the initial flexible stages of learning to solve problems before the skill had become organized. The discussion indicated that performance is facilitated by the quality and timing of the use of verbalizations rather than by the mere activity of verbalizing.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary E. Ahlum-Heath
    • 1
  • Francis J. Di Vesta
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Counseling and Educational PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park