Science Starts Early

Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8205, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 02/2011; 331(6020):1022-3. DOI: 10.1126/science.1195221
Source: PubMed


Infants and young children can exhibit striking confusion about how the world works, from failing to grasp that wind causes
waves, to being mystified about how babies are created. Indeed, some researchers have characterized a child's knowledge of
the world as a bundle of misconceptions awaiting replacement with correct concepts through education (1).

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    • "Decades of research in cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and science education have dispelled the myth that students enter the science classroom as ''empty vessels'' ready to be filled with knowledge. Rather, they enter with rich, pre-instructional theories of the domain-relevant phenomena that often interfere with learning (Carey, 2000; Keil, 2011; Vosniadou, 1994). In the domain of mechanics, for instance, students hold theories of motion predicated on the belief that forces are transferred from one object to another upon contact and must dissipate before objects can come to a rest (Clement, 1982; McCloskey, 1983). "
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    ABSTRACT: When students learn scientific theories that conflict with their earlier, naïve theories, what happens to the earlier theories? Are they overwritten or merely suppressed? We investigated this question by devising and implementing a novel speeded-reasoning task. Adults with many years of science education verified two types of statements as quickly as possible: statements whose truth value was the same across both naïve and scientific theories of a particular phenomenon (e.g., "The moon revolves around the Earth") and statements involving the same conceptual relations but whose truth value differed across those theories (e.g., "The Earth revolves around the sun"). Participants verified the latter significantly more slowly and less accurately than the former across 10 domains of knowledge (astronomy, evolution, fractions, genetics, germs, matter, mechanics, physiology, thermodynamics, and waves), suggesting that naïve theories survive the acquisition of a mutually incompatible scientific theory, coexisting with that theory for many years to follow.
    Cognition 05/2012; 124(2):209-15. DOI:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.04.005 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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    • "Moreover, it would have to involve a demonstration of the basic tenet of causal modeling in science that covariation or correlation does not necessarily signify a causal relation. This is all the more important because correlation is taken as a sign of causality from very early in infancy (Keil 2011) and is part of everyday misconceptions of causal relations (Vosniadou 2008). A model of these relations would be helpful in directing the student how to manipulate the relations between factors in order to explore them and to interpret the results of experimentation. "
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    ABSTRACT: This essay first summarizes an overarching theory of cognitive organization and development. This theory claims that the human mind involves (1) several specialized structural systems dealing with different domains of relations in the environment, (2) a central representational capacity system, (3) general inferential processes, and (4) consciousness. These systems interact dynamically during development so that changes in each are related to changes in others. The changes in all systems and the change mechanisms are described. This theory integrates research and theorizing from cognitive, developmental, and differential psychology. Based on this theory, a model for education is proposed that specifies, first, educational priorities for different phases of development according to the cognitive developmental milestones associated with each phase. The theory also specifies how education can educate students to (1) construct mental models for the sake of conceptual change, (2) use their central representational capacity efficiently, (3) advance analogical and deductive reasoning, (4) learn how to learn, and (5) become critical and creative thinkers. The theory is offered as an overarching paradigm for the architecture, the development, and the education of the human mind. KeywordsAssessment–Cognitive development–Conceptual change–Consciousness–Critical thinking–Education–Intelligence–Learning to learn–Mental models–Metarepresentation–Reasoning–Working memory
    Educational Psychology Review 12/2011; 23(4):601-663. DOI:10.1007/s10648-011-9178-3 · 2.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Rituals pose a cognitive paradox: although widely used to treat problems, rituals are causally opaque (i.e., they lack a causal explanation for their effects). How is the efficacy of ritual action evaluated in the absence of causal information? To examine this question using ecologically valid content, three studies (N=162) were conducted in Brazil, a cultural context in which rituals called simpatias are used to treat a great variety of problems ranging from asthma to infidelity. Using content from existing simpatias, experimental simpatias were designed to manipulate the kinds of information that influences perceptions of efficacy. A fourth study (N=68) with identical stimuli was conducted with a US sample to assess the generalizability of the findings across two different cultural contexts. The results provide evidence that information reflecting intuitive causal principles (i.e., repetition of procedures, number of procedural steps) and transcendental influence (i.e., presence of religious icons) affects how people evaluate ritual efficacy.
    Cognition 04/2012; 124(1):1-15. DOI:10.1016/j.cognition.2012.03.004 · 3.63 Impact Factor
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