Conceptual Transformation and Cognitive Processes in Origami Paper Folding

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Research on problem solving typically does not address tasks that involve following detailed and/or illustrated step-by-step instructions. Such tasks are not seen as cognitively challenging problems to be solved. In this paper, we challenge this assumption by analyzing verbal protocols collected during an Origami folding task. Participants verbalised thoughts well beyond reading or reformulating task instructions, or commenting on actions. In particular, they compared the task status to pictures in the instruction, evaluated the progress so far, referred to previous experience, expressed problems and confusions, and—crucially—added complex thoughts and ideas about the current instructional step. The last two categories highlight the fact that participants conceptualised this spatial task as a problem to be solved, and used creativity to achieve this aim. Procedurally, the verbalisations reflect a typical order of steps: reading—reformulating—reconceptualising—evaluating. During reconceptualisation, the creative range of spatial concepts represented in language highlights the complex mental operations involved when transferring the two-dimensional representation into the real world. We discuss the implications of our findings in terms of problem solving as a multilayered process involving diverse types of cognitive effort, consider parallels to known conceptual challenges involved in interpreting spatial descriptions, and reflect on the benefit of reconceptualisation for cognitive processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Problem Solving
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2015

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