Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Can “you” make a difference? Investigating whether perspective‐taking improves performance on inconsistent mathematical word problems

Summary Pronouns encouraging a second‐person perspective (e.g., “you/your”) affect peoples' mental representations constructed while reading and improve learning. The present study applied these insights to a domain in that such pronoun effects have yet been unexplored: mathematical word problem solving. Specifically, we encouraged a second‐person perspective (using “your”) in an attempt to reduce the consistency effect, that is, the finding that more errors are made on word problems containing a relational keyword inconsistent rather than consistent with the required arithmetic operation. Primary school children solved consistent and inconsistent word problems (containing the relational keywords “less than”) presented in third‐person (i.e., store name) or second‐person (“your store”) perspective. Results demonstrated the consistency effect, but the perspective manipulation did not produce significant differences between conditions, that is, a second‐person perspective did not reduce the consistency effect. These findings suggest that reducing the consistency effect may require a less subtle approach than using personalized pronouns.

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