Tackling scientific misconceptions: the element of surprise

  • Misconceptions about scientific concepts often prevail even if learners are confronted with conflicting evidence. This study tested the facilitative role of surprise in children’s revision of misconceptions regarding water displacement in a sample of German children (N = 94, aged 6–9 years, 46% female). Surprise was measured via the pupil dilation response. It was induced by letting children generate predictions before presenting them with outcomes that conflicted with their misconception. Compared to a control condition, generating predictions boosted children’s surprise and led to a greater revision of misconceptions (d = 0.56). Surprise further predicted successful belief revision during the learning phase. These results suggest that surprise increases the salience of a cognitive conflict, thereby facilitating the revision of misconceptions.

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Author:Maria Theobald, Garvin BrodORCiDGND
Parent Title (English):Child development
Place of publication:Malden, Ma. [u.a.]
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/05/10
Date of first Publication:2021/05/10
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2021/09/08
Issue:online version of record before inclusion in an issue
Page Number:14
First Page:1
Last Page:14
This research was funded by a grant of the German Research Foundation (DFG, BR 5736/2-1) to Garvin Brod. Garvin Brod was supported by a Jacobs Foundation Research Fellowship.
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
3 Sozialwissenschaften / 37 Bildung und Erziehung / 370 Bildung und Erziehung
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell 4.0