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Working Memory, Fluid Reasoning, and Complex Problem Solving: Different Results Explained by the Brunswik Symmetry


Kretzschmar, André; Nebe, Stephan (2021). Working Memory, Fluid Reasoning, and Complex Problem Solving: Different Results Explained by the Brunswik Symmetry. Journal of Intelligence, 9(1):5.

Abstract

In order to investigate the nature of complex problem solving (CPS) within the nomological network of cognitive abilities, few studies have simultantiously considered working memory and intelligence, and results are inconsistent. The Brunswik symmetry principle was recently discussed as a possible explanation for the inconsistent findings because the operationalizations differed greatly between the studies. Following this assumption, 16 different combinations of operationalizations of working memory and fluid reasoning were examined in the present study (N=152). Based on structural equation modeling with single-indicator latent variables (i.e., corrected for measurement error), it was found that working memory incrementally explained CPS variance above and beyond fluid reasoning in only 2 of 16 conditions. However, according to the Brunswik symmetry principle, both conditions can be interpreted as an asymmetrical (unfair) comparison, in which working memory was artificially favored over fluid reasoning. We conclude that there is little evidence that working memory plays a unique role in solving complex problems independent of fluid reasoning. Furthermore, the impact of the Brunswik symmetry principle was clearly demonstrated as the explained variance in CPS varied between 4 and 31%, depending on which operationalizations of working memory and fluid reasoning were considered. We argue that future studies investigating the interplay of cognitive abilities will benefit if the Brunswik principle is taken into account.

Abstract

In order to investigate the nature of complex problem solving (CPS) within the nomological network of cognitive abilities, few studies have simultantiously considered working memory and intelligence, and results are inconsistent. The Brunswik symmetry principle was recently discussed as a possible explanation for the inconsistent findings because the operationalizations differed greatly between the studies. Following this assumption, 16 different combinations of operationalizations of working memory and fluid reasoning were examined in the present study (N=152). Based on structural equation modeling with single-indicator latent variables (i.e., corrected for measurement error), it was found that working memory incrementally explained CPS variance above and beyond fluid reasoning in only 2 of 16 conditions. However, according to the Brunswik symmetry principle, both conditions can be interpreted as an asymmetrical (unfair) comparison, in which working memory was artificially favored over fluid reasoning. We conclude that there is little evidence that working memory plays a unique role in solving complex problems independent of fluid reasoning. Furthermore, the impact of the Brunswik symmetry principle was clearly demonstrated as the explained variance in CPS varied between 4 and 31%, depending on which operationalizations of working memory and fluid reasoning were considered. We argue that future studies investigating the interplay of cognitive abilities will benefit if the Brunswik principle is taken into account.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:21 January 2021
Deposited On:27 Jan 2021 10:01
Last Modified:01 Feb 2021 16:30
Publisher:MDPI Publishing
ISSN:2079-3200
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3390/jintelligence9010005
Related URLs:https://osf.io/n2jvy/ (Research Data)
PubMed ID:33494412
Project Information:
  • : FunderUniversität Zürich Forschungskredit
  • : Grant IDFK-19-020
  • : Project Title

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