Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in by Jean Lave

Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in by Jean Lave

By Jean Lave

During this leading edge research, Jean Lave strikes the research of 1 specific kind of cognitive activity--arithmetic problem-solving--out of the laboratory and into the area of daily life. In so doing, she exhibits how arithmetic within the "real world", akin to that entailed in grocery buying or eating regimen, is, like several pondering, formed by way of the dynamic stumble upon among the culturally-endowed brain and its overall context, a sophisticated interplay that shapes either the human topic and the area during which it acts.

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There are other difficulties with the conceptualization of context in these experiments and more broadly in the experimental study of cognition. Transfer is characterized as occurring across unrelated, or analogically related, or remotely related situations, but never across settings complexly interrelated in activity, personnel, time, space, or their furnishings. There is an implicit assumption that each context of activity exists in virtual isolation from all others. The abstract quality of this vision is called into question by observational studies in which much of what transpires across settings interpenetrates in various ways - for example, meal planning, grocery shopping, managing money, dieting, cooking and sitting down to meals.

Of the 36 subjects, 7 consistently used the fluid flow model, 8 the crowd model. These subjects provided the data analyzed in the paper. (They do not comment on the fact that fewer than half of the subjects could be included in the analysis). As expected, "the results of the study indicate that use of different analogies leads to systematic differences in the patterns of inferences in the target domain" (1983: 118). Their second experiment involved a short teaching session on Ohm's law, and led to less clearcut results.

In introducing the paper, however, he suggests we consider the nature of transfer across the situations of students' lives (1980: 81). Lest the distinction seem exaggerated, consider the uses and meanings of "context" in the following passage from Gick and Holyoak (1980: 349): (I) The issue of how analogies are noticed is a very general one. A potential analogy may often be encoded in a very different context from that in which the target problem appears. 40 Theory in practice (2) Indeed, the basic problem in using an analogy between remote domains is to connect two bodies of information from disparate semantic contexts.

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