Content effects in problem categorization and problem solving

Stephen B. Blessing, Brian H. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many domains, the content of a problem (i.e., its surface cover story) provides useful clues as to the type of problem it is and to its solution. Five experiments examined this role of problem content on the problem solution and categorization of algebra word problems with experienced participants. In the first experiment, when problem content was atypical for the problem's deep structure, people were worse at solving the problem. Differences were also detected in the problem solution where the problem's content was highly correlated with its deep structure versus problems where content was neutral to their deep structure. In the other experiments, problem categorization and determination of information relevance depended on how closely the problem's content matched its deep structure. These results suggest that content may be influential even for experienced problem solvers. The discussion examines the implications for problem schema access and application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-810
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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