BOX 3.2 An Example of Negative Transfer
Luchins and Luchins (1970) studied how prior experience can limit people’s abilities to function efficiently in new settings. They used water jar problems where participants had three jars of varying sizes and an unlimited water supply and were asked to obtain a required amount of water. Everyone received a practice problem. People in the experimental group then received five problems (problems 2–6) prior to critical test problems (7, 8, 10, and 11). People in the control group went straight from the practice problems to problems 7–11. Problems 2–6 were designed to establish a “set” (Einstellung) for solving the problems in a particular manner (using containers b-a-2c as a solution). People in the experimental group were highly likely to use the Einstellung Solution on the critical problems even though more efficient procedures were available. In contrast, people in the control group used solutions that were much more direct.