In three experiments, we examined the sensitivity of information acquisition strategies to the underlying cognitive structure of arithmetic tasks. Previous work has shown that individuals solve arithmetic problems more quickly when they consider operators before operands. The operators establish the goal, and the operands are then assimilated into that goal. In the present experiments, participants performed arithmetic tasks in which they controlled the display of operators and operands, using separate keystrokes. The participants chose to see the operator before the operands in most conditions. This ordering was more likely when task constraints made it easier to achieve, when feedback emphasized execution time, and in a more complex multiple-step task. These results extend previous research on strategy selection and information acquisition, supporting the idea that coordination between the environment and ongoing cognition is an important feature of cognitive skill.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)