Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 685–698 | Cite as

Collaboration facilitates abstract category learning

  • J. Elizabeth Richey
  • Timothy J. Nokes-Malach
  • Kara Cohen


We examined the effects of collaboration (dyads vs. individuals) and category structure (coherent vs. incoherent) on learning and transfer. Working in dyads or individually, participants classified examples from either an abstract coherent category, the features of which are not fixed but relate in a meaningful way, or an incoherent category, the features of which do not relate meaningfully. All participants were then tested individually. We hypothesized that dyads would benefit more from classifying the coherent category structure because past work has shown that collaboration is more beneficial for tasks that build on shared prior knowledge and provide opportunities for explanation and abstraction. Results showed that dyads improved more than individuals during the classification task regardless of category coherence, but learning in a dyad improved inference-test performance only for participants who learned coherent categories. Although participants in the coherent categories performed better on a transfer test, there was no effect of collaboration.


Categories Learning Collaboration Metacognition 



This research was supported by Grant SBE00354420 from the National Science Foundation to the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center ( We thank Emily Schmidt and Sarah Honsaker for their assistance in collecting and coding data.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Elizabeth Richey
    • 1
    • 2
  • Timothy J. Nokes-Malach
    • 1
  • Kara Cohen
    • 1
  1. 1.Learning Research & Development CenterUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Robert H. Smith School of BusinessCollege ParkUSA

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