Simple/Complex Shapes Project


We were interested in how to promote generalization. We reasoned:

  1. 1.Generalization requires stripping away information (abstraction is, at least in part, simplification).

  2. 2.If this is true, then can we promote generalization by teaching with simplified instances?

Presenting simple or complex instances first in learning has a significant influence on generalization. We propose that appropriately simplified instances can promote generalization by altering perceived similarities of future instances perhaps by shifting attention, organizing perception, and retaining only the relevant features for generalizable.

Download related paper:

Son, J.Y., Smith, L.B., & Goldstone, R.L. (2008). Simplicity and generalization: Short-cutting abstraction in children’s object categorizations. Cognition, 108, 626-638.

A new project examines this phenomena in Chinese simplified and traditional (i.e., complex) characters.  Our hypothesis about the generalizability of simple learning items is being tested on Chinese readers who have a history of perceptually processing these items as well as on naive learners.

Simple/Complex Shapes Project

Should complex shapes be taught first? 

OR simplified ones?

Should Traditional characters be taught first? 

OR simplified ones?