# Negative Transfer in Matchstick Arithmetic Insight Problems

- Trina Kershaw,
*University of Massachusetts Dartmouth*
- Jason Braasch,
*Université de Poitiers*
- Christopher Flynn,
*University of Massachusetts Dartmouth*

## Abstract

The current experiment examined whether successful solution on one
type of problem, indicating the relaxation of a constraint, had a negative impact
on subsequent problems that did not involve the same constraints. One hundred and
forty-five participants solved a series of matchstick arithmetic problems. In one
group, participants were given three relatively simple “chunk
decomposition” problems (CD). A second group solved one “operator
decomposition” (OD) problem, involving more constraints, between the
baseline CD problem and two later problems. The third group solved three OD
problems, similarly placed. Results indicated that successful solution of an OD
problem produced negative transfer to subsequent CD problems in the form of
longer solution times. Participants who did not successfully solve OD problems
did not slow down on subsequent problems; they displayed evidence of positive
transfer. The findings were interpreted with reference to theories of constraint
relaxation and its relationship to problem solving performance.

Back to Table of Contents