The authors would like to thank the children, parents, and staff at Slate Hill, Wilson Hill, and Wickliffe Alternative schools, as well as Stephanie Heinsons, Jennifer Filicky, and Debbie Lurie for their help in data collection. Vladimir Sloutsky, Robert Siegler, Michael Edwards, and two anonymous reviewers also made many helpful suggestions on a previous draft of the manuscript. Portions of these data were previously presented at the 29th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
The Trouble With Transfer: Insights From Microgenetic Changes in the Representation of Numerical Magnitude
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2008
© 2008, Copyright the Author(s); Journal Compilation © 2008, Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Volume 79, Issue 3, pages 788–804, May/June 2008
How to Cite
Opfer, J. E. and Thompson, C. A. (2008), The Trouble With Transfer: Insights From Microgenetic Changes in the Representation of Numerical Magnitude. Child Development, 79: 788–804. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01158.x
- Issue published online: 16 MAY 2008
- Article first published online: 16 MAY 2008
Spontaneous transfer of learning is often difficult to elicit. This finding may be widespread partly because pretests proactively interfere with transfer. To test this hypothesis, 7-year-olds’ transfer was examined across 2 numerical tasks (number line estimation and categorization) in which similar representational changes have been observed. As predicted, children given feedback on numerical estimates learned to use a linear representation of numerical quantity instead of a logarithmic one, but providing practice on a categorization pretest led children to continue using a logarithmic representation on the same task, which they otherwise abandoned with surprising frequency. These findings imply unsupervised practice of inappropriate representations impedes transfer, and studies of learning can greatly underestimate children’s potential for transfer if pretest effects are uncontrolled.