David H. Uttal

David H. Uttal
Northwestern University | NU · Department of Psychology

Ph.D.

About

149
Publications
65,562
Reads
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6,774
Citations
Citations since 2016
50 Research Items
4178 Citations
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20162017201820192020202120220200400600
20162017201820192020202120220200400600
20162017201820192020202120220200400600
Additional affiliations
August 1993 - present
Northwestern University
Position
  • Professor
September 1991 - August 1993
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Position
  • PostDoc Position
August 1989 - August 1991
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
Education
August 1983 - August 1989
University of Michigan
Field of study
  • Developmental Psychology
September 1979 - May 1983
College of William and Mary
Field of study
  • Psychology

Publications

Publications (149)
Article
Full-text available
We explore the relation between spatial thinking and performance and attainment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) domains. Spatial skills strongly predict who will go into STEM fields. But why is this true? We argue that spatial skills serve as a gateway or barrier for entry into STEM fields. We review literature that indic...
Article
Full-text available
Humans are exposed to viruses everywhere they live, play, and work. Yet people's beliefs about viruses may be confused or inaccurate, potentially impairing their understanding of scientific information. This study used semi-structured interviews to examine people's beliefs about viruses, vaccines, and the causes of infectious disease. We compared p...
Article
Full-text available
Having good spatial skills strongly predicts achievement and attainment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (e.g., Shea, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2001; Wai, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2009). Improving spatial skills is therefore of both theoretical and practical importance. To determine whether and to what extent training and experience...
Article
Current debate surrounds the promise of neuroscience for education, including whether learning-related neural changes can predict learning transfer better than traditional performance-based learning assessments. Longstanding debate in philosophy and psychology concerns the proposition that spatial processes underlie seemingly nonspatial/verbal reas...
Article
Full-text available
Spatial play contributes to children’s early development of spatial skills, which are foundational for STEM achievement. A growing genre of spatial play for young children is digital block play. We asked how 3- to 6-year-old children ( N = 117) engaged in digital block play and whether children’s age, gender, and spatial skills were correlated with...
Article
Full-text available
Creativity often requires envisioning novel connections and combinations among elements in space, e.g., to invent a new product or generate a work of art. A relationship between spatial cognition and creativity has been demonstrated at both the behavioral and neural levels, but the exact neurocognitive mechanisms that bridge this connection remain...
Article
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Disparities in Mathematics performance have been shown across race and gender for decades, although little research has reported the race by gender nexus in terms of disparity. In turn, research done to ameliorate these disparities have assumed that these differences are primarily among student populations who need remedial learning improvement. In...
Article
Full-text available
Much recent research has focused on the relation between spatial skills and mathematical skills, which has resulted in widely reported links between these two skill sets. However, the magnitude of this relation is unclear. Furthermore, it is of interest whether this relation differs in size based on key demographic variables, such as gender and gra...
Preprint
Assessing whether learning in one domain is transferable to abilities in other domains often eludes traditional testing. Thus, a question with bearing on the promise of neuroscience for education is whether neural changes that accompany in-school curriculum learning can improve prediction of learning transfer. Separately, debate in philosophy and p...
Article
Full-text available
Background Motivation is critical for supporting persistence and achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In this study, we focus on the assessment of mathematics motivation among secondary school students. We provide validity and reliability evidence for the Mathematics Motivation Questionnaire (MMQ)—ada...
Article
This study examined whether families’ conversational reflections after a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)‐related experience in a museum promoted learning transfer. 63 children (M = 6.93 years; 30 girls; 57% White, 17.5% Latinx, 8% Asian, 5% African American, 9.5% mixed, 3% missing race/ethnicity) and their parents received...
Article
Full-text available
Involving students in the co-design of educational curricula and practices can benefit both students and teachers. Students who participate in co-design may show better learning or increased agency or engagement. In the present study, we investigated what kind of science knowledge or practices can be learned by student co-designers while engaging i...
Article
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Using a design-based research approach, we studied ways to advance opportunities for children and families to engage in engineering design practices in an informal educational setting. 213 families with 5–11-year-old children were observed as they visited a tinkering exhibit at a children’s museum during one of three iterations of a program posing...
Article
The construct of active learning permeates undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but despite its prevalence, the construct means different things to different people, groups, and STEM domains. To better understand active learning, we constructed this review through an innovative interdisciplinary colla...
Article
This study is a collaborative project between university researchers and museum practitioners investigating ways to advance STEM learning opportunities for young children and their families in museums. The focus of the work is on how the knowledge resources that are available to families (e.g., prior knowledge, information provided by the museum st...
Article
With the growth of touchscreen devices, children’s play has become digital. This digital medium promotes spatial play because touchscreen games are visuospatial in nature, allowing children to manipulate shapes in ways that highlight spatial relations. Spatial play is important for spatial skill development, but few studies have examined children’s...
Article
Full-text available
Spatial skills are an important component of success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. A majority of what we know about spatial skills today is a result of more than 100 years of research focused on understanding and identifying the kinds of skills that make up this skill set. Over the last two decades, the field has reco...
Article
This study focused on tinkering, a playful form of open-ended problem solving that is being widely adopted in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education as a way of encouraging children’s engagement in disciplinary practices of engineering. Nevertheless, the design of exhibits and programs and the nature of children’s intera...
Article
The goal of the present study was to characterize high school students’ (n = 338) exposure to geospatial technologies and investigate factors predicting enrollment in a GIS course. Students who reported using GIS were almost 10 times more likely to enroll than students without experience using GIS. Males were more than 3 times more likely to enroll...
Article
Full-text available
Biologists use tree diagrams to illustrate phylogenetic relationships among species. However, both novices and experts are prone to misinterpret this notational form. A difficulty with reasoning with cladograms is that intuitive narrative conceptions of evolution as a linear progression interfere with perceiving the hierarchical relationships that...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Prior research has revealed positive effects of spatial activity participation (e.g., playing with blocks, sports) on current and future spatial skills. However, research has not examined the degree to which spatial activity participation remains stable over time, and little is known about how participating in spatial activities at mul...
Article
Previous studies on metacognitive performance have explored children's abilities during primary school (7-11 years) in abstract and mathematical reasoning tasks. However, there have been no studies evaluating the metamemory processes with spatial tasks in primary school children, and even more generally, only a few studies have explored spatial met...
Article
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Background Spatial skills and mathematical ability have been repeatedly identified as critical for achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Previous studies have identified correlations between spatial skills and mathematical achievement; however, questions remain regarding improvements in non-spatial areas associate...
Article
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In the present study, we investigated whether parents’ beliefs about their high school aged adolescents’ spatial abilities (i.e., spatial visualization, mental manipulation, and navigation abilities) differed based on their child’s gender. We also examined whether these beliefs related to parents’ encouragement of their child to pursue a Science, T...
Article
Full-text available
Most tests and school curricula are primarily suited to the types of students who excel in mathematics and verbal reasoning. The missing factor in testing and education policy is the measurement, selection, and talent development of students with strengths in spatial reasoning—the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform visual images....
Article
Geospatial technologies, such as geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and GPS have been used in a variety of educational settings to help improve student learning. A sample of 53 high school seniors was recruited from the Geospatial Semester (GSS), a course that emphasizes the use of GIS for problem-solving and students in AP Physi...
Article
In recent decades, educators and policymakers in the United States have increased their focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities both in school and in informal learning environments outside of school. Informal STEM learning can take place in varied settings and involves a variety of STEM domains (e.g....
Chapter
Full-text available
Visuospatial processing is a key asset for thriving in health and natural sciences education and practice. Two critical reasons for this importance are that (a) science phenomena are often represented visuospatially, and (b) science is communicated among professionals by means of visual and spatial information. Furthermore, there is a reciprocal re...
Article
We examined the conversational reflections of 248 families with 6–11‐year‐old children shortly after they visited a tinkering exhibit. Our aim was to understand the conditions of tinkering and conversational reflection that can enhance STEM learning opportunities for young children. Some families visited the exhibit when there was a design challeng...
Chapter
Full-text available
Studying and pursuing careers of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields demand spatial ability. Completing a university degree in biology is no exception. The aim of this study is to summarize key findings showing that there is a two-way relation between university biology education and spatial ability. The first aspect of...
Article
Full-text available
SCIENTIFIC Teachers’ skills and attitudes in a specific domain can influence students’ learning in that domain. Here we focused on spatial skills, which are important for learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Fostering students’ spatial skills may rely on teachers’ comfort in implementing spatially demanding activiti...
Article
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This meta-analysis, spanning 5 decades of Draw-A-Scientist studies, examined U.S. children's gender-science stereotypes linking science with men. These stereotypes should have weakened over time because women's representation in science has risen substantially in the United States, and mass media increasingly depict female scientists. Based on 78 s...
Article
This study examined whether and to what extent children's prior play experiences might support engineering learning in museum's building construction exhibit. 277 families with 4 to 9-year-old children worked together to solve the first engineering design problem, and then children worked alone to solve the second. At the outset, some families rece...
Article
We argue that analogical reasoning, particularly Gentner's (1983, 2010) structure-mapping theory, provides an integrative theoretical framework through which we can better understand the development of symbol use. Analogical reasoning can contribute both to the understanding of others' intentions and the establishment of correspondences between sym...
Article
Full-text available
This study addressed whether providing mothers and children with engineering information would promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talk during interactions in a building-construction exhibit and later when remembering the experience at home. A total of 40 mothers and their 5-to 6-year-old children (M = 5.87) were random...
Article
We propose that map reading can be construed as a form of analogical mapping. We tested 2 predictions that follow from this claim: First, young children's patterns of performance in map reading tasks should parallel those found in analogical mapping tasks; and, second, children will benefit from guided alignment instructions that help them see the...
Article
This article briefly outlines the history of the Cognitive Development Society (CDS) since its inception in 1999 through 2016. At its biennial meeting in October of 2015 CDS celebrated 16 years of contributions to the community of cognitive development researchers. This article continues that celebration.
Article
Spatial thinking is important for success in engineering. However, much less is known about how students learn and apply spatial skills, particularly in K-12 engineering learning. The present study investigated the role of spatial thinking in engineering learning at a middle school summer camp. Participants included 26 students (13 female, 13 male)...
Article
Full-text available
Perceiving not just values, but relations between values, is critical to human cognition. We tested the predictions of a proposed mechanism for processing categorical spatial relations between two objects—the shift account of relation processing—which states that relations such as ‘above’ or ‘below’ are extracted by shifting visual attention upward...
Data
Testing Response Keys (Experiment 5). (DOCX)
Data
Additional analysis of Experiment 1. (DOCX)
Data
Additional analysis of Experiment 3. (DOCX)
Data
Replicating the Spatial Template Recognition Task (Experiment 4). (DOCX)
Data
Full analysis of Experiment 1. (DOCX)
Data
Additional analysis of Experiment 2a. (DOCX)
Article
Full-text available
Parents and educators often expect that children will learn from touch screen devices, such as during joint e-book reading. Therefore an essential question is whether young children understand that the touch screen can be a symbolic medium – that entities represented on the touch screen can refer to entities in the real world. Research on symbolic...
Article
Full-text available
Linking relations described in text with relations in visualizations is often difficult. We used eye tracking to measure the optimal way to extract such relations in graphs, college students, and young children (6- and 8-year-olds). Participants compared relational statements (“Are there more blueberries than oranges?”) with simple graphs, and two...
Article
Although microbes directly impact everyone's health, most people have limited knowledge about them. In this article, we describe a museum and media public education campaign aimed at helping diverse audiences better understand emerging knowledge about microbes and infectious disease. Funded primarily by the Science Education Partnership (SEPA) prog...
Article
Full-text available
a r t i c l e i n f o The ability to locate and orient ourselves with respect to environmental space is known as sense of direction (" SOD "). While there is considerable evidence for the predictive utility of self-report measures of this psychological construct, relatively little research has investigated the psychometric properties of the self-re...
Article
Full-text available
Spatial training has been indicated as a possible solution for improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) achievement and degree attainment. Advocates for this approach have noted that the correlation between spatial ability and several measures of STEM achievement suggests that spatial training should focus on improving stu...
Conference Paper
I will discuss a partnership between a cognitive scientist and an environmental scientist that facilitates high-school students reasoning about complex real-world scientific and engineering problems through the use of computer-based layered maps. The program has enhanced students learning at a variety of levels, from basic spatial reasoning to solv...
Article
Full-text available
Knowledge around geospatial technologies and learning remains sparse, inconsistent, and overly anecdotal. Studies are needed that are better structured; more systematic and replicable; attentive to progress and findings in the cognate fields of science, technology, engineering, and math education; and coordinated for multidisciplinary approaches. A...
Article
Full-text available
Capturing the nature of students' mental representations and how they change with learning is a primary goal in science education research. This can be challenging in spatially intense domains, such as geoscience, architecture, and engineering. In this research, we test whether sketching can be used to gauge level of expertise in geoscience, using...
Article
Full-text available
This article takes a prospective cognition perspective in reviewing research on the development of children's understanding of spatial symbols, such as scale models and maps. We suggest that using spatial symbols requires that children think about where an object will be found rather than where they last saw it. In addition, we suggest that as chil...
Article
This article takes a prospective cognition perspective in reviewing research on the development of children’s understanding of spatial symbols, such as scale models and maps. We suggest that using spatial symbols requires that children think about where an object will be found rather than where they last saw it. In addition, we suggest that as chil...
Article
The frequent and fluent use of symbols is a distinguishing characteristic of human thought and communication. Symbols free us from the bounds of our own direct experience and allow us to learn about the world from others. To use a symbol, children need to (1) understand the intention that led to the creation and use of the symbol, and (b) how the s...
Article
Full-text available
The effects of parent–child conversation and object manipulation on children's learning, transfer of knowledge, and memory were examined in two museum exhibits and conversations recorded at home. Seventy-eight children (Mage = 4.9) and their parents were randomly assigned to receive conversation cards featuring elaborative questions about exhibit o...
Article
Full-text available
Although neglected in traditional education, spatial thinking plays a critical role in achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. We review this relationship and investigate the malleability of spatial thinking. Can spatial thinking be improved with training, life experience, or educational interventions? Can im...
Conference Paper
Visual spatial relations are the foundation for encoding information in graphs, diagrams, and maps. While successfully using these displays requires that we extract, remember, and integrate these relations, there is little existing work measuring how many we can store. Some related types of visual information seem to be robustly encoded, such as th...
Article
Full-text available
Teachers use remote labs and simulations to augment or even replace hands-on science learning. We compared undergraduate students’ experiences with a remote lab and a simulation to investigate beliefs about and learning from the interactions. Although learning occurred in both groups, students were more deeply engaged while performing the remote la...
Article
The development of conceptions of evolution is a problem of both great practical concern and important theoretical interest. Many Americans do not understand basic principles of evolution, such as natural selection, and part of the reason may be that these concepts are notoriously difficult to learn and to teach. The four contributions in this spec...