In order to investigate the nature of complex problem solving (CPS) within the nomological network of cognitive abilities, few studies have simultantiously considered working memory and intelligence, and results are inconsistent. The Brunswik symmetry principle was recently discussed as a possible explanation for the inconsistent findings because the operationalizations differed greatly between the studies. Following this assumption, 16 different combinations of operationalizations of working memory and fluid reasoning were examined in the present study (N
= 152). Based on structural equation modeling with single-indicator latent variables (i.e., corrected for measurement error), it was found that working memory incrementally explained CPS variance above and beyond fluid reasoning in only 2 of 16 conditions. However, according to the Brunswik symmetry principle, both conditions can be interpreted as an asymmetrical (unfair) comparison, in which working memory was artificially favored over fluid reasoning. We conclude that there is little evidence that working memory plays a unique role in solving complex problems independent of fluid reasoning. Furthermore, the impact of the Brunswik symmetry principle was clearly demonstrated as the explained variance in CPS varied between 4 and 31%, depending on which operationalizations of working memory and fluid reasoning were considered. We argue that future studies investigating the interplay of cognitive abilities will benefit if the Brunswik principle is taken into account.
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