Miriam Bassok

Image of Miriam Bassok

Miriam Bassok, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus
(206) 543-6940
Advising: Does not accept or train psychology graduate students.
Interests: Learning, Problem Solving, Analogical Reasoning, Mathematical Reasoning


I conduct research that examines human learning, problem solving, and reasoning. Most of my work aims to understand how children and adults use mathematical notations to solve real-life problems. I argue and show that people draw analogies between real-world and mathematical concepts. For example, people readily add objects from the same category (e.g., tulips + daisies) and readily divide functionally related objects (e.g., tulips ÷ vases), but they refrain from adding tulips and vases or from dividing tulips among daisies. Such analogical alignments are very fast and unconscious. They can explain how people learn new mathematical concepts and how they apply what they have learned to novel problems. One important conceptual distinction people make is between discrete and continuous quantities (e.g., 3 apples and 3kg, respectively). This distinction affects how people use mathematical equations and mathematical symbols. For example, my recent studies show that people use fractions to represent relations between discrete quantities (3/4 apples), and use decimals to represent magnitudes of continuous quantities (.75kg). As in other cases of alignment, people’s reasoning is faster and more accurate when the discreteness/continuity of the quantities corresponds to the of the discreteness/continuity mathematical symbols.


The Hebrew University (1984)

  • DeWolf, M., Bassok, M., & Holyoak, K. J. (2015). Conceptual structure and the procedural affordances of rational numbers: Relational reasoning with fractions and decimals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144, 127-150.
  • DeWolf, M., Bassok, M., & Holyoak, K. J. (2015). From rational numbers to algebra: Separable contributions of decimal magnitude and relational understanding of fractions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 133, 72-84.
  • Guthormsen, A., Fisher, K.J., Bassok, M., Osterhout, L., DeWolf, M., & Holyoak, K.J. (2015). Conceptual Integration of Arithmetic Operations with Real-World Knowledge: Evidence from Event-Related Potentials. Cognitive Science. DOI: 10.1111/cogs.12238
  • Rapp, M., Bassok, M., DeWolf, M., & Holyoak, K. J. (2015). Modeling discrete and continuous entities with fractions and decimals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 21, 47-56.
  • DeWolf, M., Grounds, M.A., Bassok, M., & Holyoak, K.J. (2014). Magnitude comparison with different types of rational numbers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 71-82.
  • DeWolf, M., Bassok, M., & Holyoak, K.J. (2013). Analogical reasoning with rational numbers: Semantic alignment based on discrete versus continuous quantities. In M. Knauf, M. Pauven, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Bassok, M. & Novick, L. R. (2012). Problem Solving. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (Chapter 21, 413-432). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Fisher, K. J., Borchert, K., & Bassok, M. (2011). Following the standard form: Effects of equation format on algebraic modeling. Memory & Cognition, 39, 502-515.
  • Bassok, M., Pedigo, S. F., & Oskarsson, A. T. (2008). Priming addition facts with semantic relations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34, 343-352.
  • Martin, S. A. & Bassok, M. (2005). Effects of semantic cues on mathematical modeling: Evidence from word-problem solving and equation construction tasks. Memory & Cognition, 33, 471- 478.
  • Bassok, M. (2001). Semantic alignments in mathematical word problems. In Gentner, D., Holyoak, K. J., & Kokinov, B. N. (Eds.) The analogical mind: Perspectives from cognitive science (Chapter 12, 401-433). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Wisniewski, E. J., & Bassok, M. (1999) Stimulus compatibility with comparison and integration. Cognitive Psychology, 39, 208-238.
  • Bassok, M. (1997). Object-based reasoning. In D. L. Medin (Ed.) The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Vol. 37, pp. 1-39. Academic Press.