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The Agile Mind$
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Wilma Koutstaal

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195367188

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195367188.001.0001

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Flexibly Using Memory and Categorical Knowledge, Part 1

Flexibly Using Memory and Categorical Knowledge, Part 1

Levels of Representational Specificity and Thinking

(p.53) 2 Flexibly Using Memory and Categorical Knowledge, Part 1
The Agile Mind

Wilma Koutstaal

Oxford University Press

This chapter highlights the effects of constrained versus free movements between levels of specificity in memory and categorization on agile thinking. It argues that agile thinking requires the retention and use of both specific and abstract memory and knowledge—and the ability to move flexibly and adaptively between these as needed. It first considers the hazards of an overly extreme form of memory at either end of the specific-to-abstract continuum—either predominantly, and too consistently, specific or predominantly too categorical and abstract. It then considers several converging sources of evidence supporting the importance of movement between levels of specificity in enabling adaptive thinking. It shows that particular conditions that involve changes in an individual's capacity to access flexibly mental representations at differing levels of specificity, such as memory and information processing in clinical depression, or normal aging, frequently also involve disruptions in aspects of intentional control (control vs. automaticity). The chapter focuses on factors that shape flexible thinking that predominantly involve the content of representations, relating to where representations fall on the level of specificity continuum from abstract to specific.

Keywords:   memory, categorization, specificity, agile thinking, mental representations, flexible thinking

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