Explanation Supports Hypothesis Generation in Learning

AbstractA large body of research has shown that engaging in explanation improves learning across a range of tasks. The act of explaining has been proposed to draw attention and cognitive resources toward evidence that will support a good explanation—information that is broad, abstract, and consistent with prior knowledge—which in turn aids discovery and generalization. However, it remains unclear whether explanation acts on the learning process via improved hypothesis generation, increasing the probability that the correct hypothesis is considered in the first place, or hypothesis evaluation, the appraisal of the correct hypothesis in light of evidence. In the present study, we address this question by separating the hypothesis generation and evaluation processes in a novel category learning task and quantifying the effect of explanation on each process independently. We find that explanation supports the generation of broad and abstract hypotheses but has less effect on the evaluation of hypotheses.

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