Expertise as mental set: The effects of domain knowledge in creative problem solving

Abstract

Experts generally solve problems in their fields more effectively than novices because their wellstructured, easily activated knowledge allows for efficient search of a solution space. But what happens when a problem requires a broad search for a solution? One concern is that subjects with a large amount of domain knowledge may actually be at a disadvantage, because their knowledge may confine them to an area of the search space in which the solution does not reside. In other words, domain knowledge may act as a mental set, promoting fixation in creative problem-solving attempts. A series of three experiments in which an adapted version of Mednick’s (1962) remote associates task was used demonstrates conditions under which domain knowledge may inhibit creative problem solving.

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Correspondence to Jennifer Wiley.

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This article is based on a dissertation submitted to the University of Pittsburgh in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D.

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Wiley, J. Expertise as mental set: The effects of domain knowledge in creative problem solving. Memory & Cognition 26, 716–730 (1998). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03211392

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Keywords

  • Domain Knowledge
  • Trial Type
  • Knowledge Level
  • Knowledge Subject
  • Neutral Trial