Analogical transfer and expertise in legal reasoning

Garry Marchant, John Robinson, Urton Anderson, Michael Schadewald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Analogical transfer and its relation to expertise is examined in a legal context. Three experiments were conducted comparing the performance of novices (introductory tax students) and of experts (experienced tax practitioners from multinational public accounting firms) on tasks involving the application of tax laws. In Experiment 1 subjects completed a target problem after reading a decided case that was either analogous or not analogous to a target problem. A limited amount of transfer was observed, with no differential rate of transfer across experience levels. In Experiments 2 and 3 attempts were made to facilitate transfer of knowledge by inducing transfer-appropriate processing of the source analog and by providing multiple source analogs. The results of both experiments indicate an interaction between treatment and expertise. Unexpectedly, the facilitating treatments reduced the transfer of knowledge for experts while increasing the transfer for novices. Subsequent analysis of the responses of the expert subjects indicates that for the more experienced expert subjects a highly proceduralized rule interfered with the knowledge transfer when that rule was made salient by the facilitating treatments. The less experienced expert subjects behaved in a manner consistent with the hypotheses. This poor performance of the more experienced experts results from the inflexibility in expert problem solving due to the proceduralization of information processing. Frensch and Sternberg (1989) demonstrate that this type of inflexibility is one of the costs of expertise and results from the development of a large and highly complex knowledge base containing numerous well developed strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-290
Number of pages19
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1991

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support of this project was provided by The University Research Institute, The University of Texas at Austin. The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions of David Schkade, Charles Gettys and an anonymous reviewer. Requests for reprints should be sent to Carry Marchant, College of Business Administration, CBA 4M.202, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712-l 172. 272

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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