The Method of Constrained Sorting

38 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2014

See all articles by Natarajan Sriram

Natarajan Sriram


Troy Thevathasan

National University of Singapore (NUS)

Date Written: August 10, 1999


The method of free sorting has been used to study conceptual structure in diverse domains. Free sorting permits a wide range of classifications and the paths to these classifications are also varied. Given its unconstrained nature, sorters may adopt an inconsistent approach to the task and this could lower the method's internal consistency. In two studies, the authors examined the influence of imposing constraints on a computer-based free sorting task. These constraints included performance feedback and the names of the ideal categories. Both constraints enhanced performance. Performance feedback also increased persistence on the task which, however, was positively correlated with performance only in constrained sorting. In line with predictions, constraints increased the internal consistency of the sorting task and provided temporally stable performance measures. The time course of various indices provided a coherent account of the contrasting strategies and outcomes across free and constrained sorting.

Keywords: classification, sorting, computer-based, categorization

Suggested Citation

Sriram, Natarajan and Thevathasan, Troy, The Method of Constrained Sorting (August 10, 1999). Available at SSRN: or

Natarajan Sriram (Contact Author)

Implisci ( email )

1999 English Oaks Cir N
Charlottesville, VA 22911
United States

Troy Thevathasan

National University of Singapore (NUS)

1E Kent Ridge Road
NUHS Tower Block Level 7
Singapore, 119228

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