Does social sensitivity influence collaborative problem solving in children? A preliminary investigation

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Psychological Society


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Computing, Health and Science




Garton, A. F., & Harvey, R. (2006). Does social sensitivity influence collaborative problem solving in children? A preliminary investigation. Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 23(2), 5. Available here


This study explores whether social sensitivity influences children’s problem solving skills or learning after collaboration with a peer. Most research into the impact of collaborative problem solving on individual skills demonstrates that the problem solving skills an individual brings to the collaborative process are a key factor in predicting the presencelabsence of cognitive change. Only recently have other attributes and/or skills, such as social or interpersonal sensitivity, been considered within this framework. This study investigates whether interpersonal sensitivity contributes to differential outcomes in learning after collaborative problem solving. One hundred 8-year-old children participated in a pre-test/collaboration/post-test design study where four groups based on pre-test problem solving ability (high/low) and pre-test social sensitivity scores (high/low) were constructed for the collaborative problem solving task. Low ability/high sensitivity children showed pre- to post-test improvement in their problem solving when paired with high ability children. Social sensitivity only predicted final problem solving in high sensitivity children. Pre-test and collaborative problem solving levels predicted post-test problem solving for children classified as high problem solving/high sensitivity. Results are discussed in relation to how social sensitivity may differentially affect the problem solving skills of children with different patterns of ability.




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