Considerable evidence indicates that domain specific knowledge in the form of schemes is the primary factor distinguishing experts from novices in problem-solving skill.

Evidence that conventional problem-solving activity is not effective in schema acquisition is also accumulating.

It is suggested that a major reason for the ineffectiveness of problem solving as a learning device, is that the cognitive processes required by the two activities overlap insufficiently, and that conventional problem solving in the form of means-ends analysis requires a relatively large amount of cognitive processing capacity which is consequently unavailable for schema acquisition.

A computational model and experimental evidence provide support for this contention. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Problem-solving skill is highly valued. For most of this century, many theorists and educational institutions have placed a heavy emphasis on this ability, especially in mathematics and science (see Dewey, 1910, 1916).

Entire movements such as “discovery learning” (e.g., Bruner, 1961) were spawned, at least in part, by the perceived importance of fostering problem-solving skills. This emphasis on problem solving was not associated with a commensurate knowledge of its characteristics and consequences. In the last few years, this state of affairs has begun to change with our knowledge of relevant mechanisms increasing markedly.

These mechanisms have implications for learning, as well as problem solving.

The purpose of the present paper is to suggest that contrary to current practice and many cognitive theories, some forms of problem solving interfere with learning.