Surprising Fluency: Bruce Whittlesea’s Contributions to our Understanding of Fundamental Cognitive Processes


The present essay provides a selective review of Bruce Whittlesea’s contributions to our understanding of memory and cognition, with a focus on his original and unique insights about heuristic reasoning. We start by outlining Whittlesea’s general approach to the study of memory, called Selective Construction and Preservation of Experiences (SCAPE; Whittlesea, 1997). Within that larger system, we focus on two profound, but under-appreciated, contributions: Whittlesea’s subtle analysis of the metacognitive experience of fluency; and his identification of a collection of heuristic inference processes that take fluency as a primary input to make judgements about familiarity, classification, and preference. We conclude with an original proposal to add two fundamental heuristics – affect-evaluation and causal-abduction – to Whittlesea’s original set of fluency, generation, and resemblance.

Mantonakis, A., Hastie, R. (2011). Surprising Fluency: Bruce Whittlesea’s Contributions to Our Understanding of the Role of Fundamental Adaptive Cognitive Processes. In: Higham, P.A., Leboe, J.P. (eds) Constructions of Remembering and Metacognition. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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