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09-01-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 2/2021 Open Access

Psychological Research 2/2021

Catch that word: interactivity, serendipity and verbal fluency in a word production task

Psychological Research > Uitgave 2/2021
Wendy Ross, Frédéric Vallée-Tourangeau
Belangrijke opmerkingen
We thank Maxwell Vincze for his contribution to the development of the word production efficiency measure and Kathryn Friedlander for her detailed and constructive comments on a previous version of this manuscript.

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Problem solving outside of the cognitive psychologist’s lab unfolds in an environment rich with bodily gesture and material artefacts. We examine this meshwork of internal mental resources, embodied actions and environmental affordances through the lens of a word production task with letter tiles. Forty participants took part in the study which contrasted performance in a high interactivity condition (where participants were able to move letter tiles at will), a low interactivity condition (where movements were restrained) and a shuffle condition (where participants could not move the tiles but were allowed to randomly rearrange the array). Participants were also video recorded to facilitate coding of behaviour. While aggregate performance measures revealed a marginal impact of interactivity on performance, when the participants’ behaviour was taken into account, interactivity had a consistent and statistically significant beneficial effect. Detailed, exploratory examination of a subsample of participants informed the formulation of additional hypotheses tested across the full sample: the luckiness of the shuffle in that condition significantly predicted the number of words produced and a more efficient strategy was significantly easier to enact in the high interactivity condition. Additionally, two detailed case studies revealed several moments when accidental changes to the letter tile array offered unplanned words reflecting a serendipitous coagency as well as many moments when environmental chance was ignored. These data and observations indicate that interactivity, serendipity, and internal cognitive resources determine problem-solving performance in this task.

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