Intelligent problem-solvers externalize cognitive operations

Bocanegra, Bruno R, Poletiek, Fenna H, Ftitache, Bouchra and Clark, Andy (2019) Intelligent problem-solvers externalize cognitive operations. Nature Human Behavior, 3 (2). pp. 136-142. ISSN 2397-3374

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Abstract

Humans are nature’s most intelligent and prolific users of external props and aids (such as written texts, slide-rules and software packages). Here we introduce a method for investigating how people make active use of their task environment during problem-solving and apply this approach to the non-verbal Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices test for fluid intelligence. We designed a click-and-drag version of the Raven test in which participants could create different external spatial configurations while solving the puzzles. In our first study, we observed that the click-and-drag test was better than the conventional static test at predicting academic achievement of university students. This pattern of results was partially replicated in a novel sample. Importantly, environment-altering actions were clustered in between periods of apparent inactivity, suggesting that problem-solvers were delicately balancing the execution of internal and external cognitive operations. We observed a systematic relationship between this critical phasic temporal signature and improved test performance. Our approach is widely applicable and offers an opportunity to quantitatively assess a powerful, although understudied, feature of human intelligence: our ability to use external objects, props and aids to solve complex problems.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0309 Consciousness. Cognition Including learning, attention, comprehension, memory, imagination, genius, intelligence, thought and thinking, psycholinguistics, mental fatigue
Q Science > QZ Psychology
Depositing User: Andy Clark
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2019 13:52
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2019 13:53
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/82314

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