Knowledge partitioning refers to the notion that knowledge can be held in independent and nonoverlapping parcels. Partitioned knowledge may cause people to make contradictory decisions for identical problems in different circumstances. We report two experiments that explored the boundary conditions of knowledge partitioning in categorization. The studies examined whether or not people would partition their knowledge (1) when categorization rules were or were not verbalizable and (2) when the to-be-categorized stimuli comprised perceptually separable or integral dimensions. When learning difficulty was controlled, partitioning occurred across all combinations of verbalizability and integrality/separability, underscoring the generality of knowledge partitioning. Partitioning was absent only when the task was rapidly learned and people reached a high level of proficiency, suggesting that task difficulty plays a critical role in the emergence of partitioned knowledge.
Memory & Cognition - MEM COGNITION , vol. 34, no. 8, pp. 1676-1688