Ecc2012 13 9


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  1. 1. ECC 2012-13Learning science and itsdifficultiesCognitive resistance to scientific facts and theoriesThe difficult acquisition of scientific concepts: Conceptual changeThe origins and development of science and the human mind:babies as scientists
  2. 2. ECC 2012-13 Cognitive resistance1. Resistance to thetheoryof evolution
  3. 3. ECC 2012-13 Cognitive resistance: some examples2. Resistance toscientific knowledgeas implied insuperstition andpseudo-scientificclaims
  4. 4. ECC 2012-13¤  During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of rhinoceros horn would increase potency… Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas – which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn’t work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked – or very little of it did. But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a conversation about UFOs or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I’ve concluded that it’s not a scientific world. (Feynman, 1974)
  5. 5. ECC 2012-13¤  Not only cultural and social reasons¤  several examples of resistance to science that occur in the absence of contrary indoctrination and in the presence of exposition to scientific facts¤  (And anyway: how is it that beliefs of this kind have such a social and cultural success that they resist evidence? )
  6. 6. ECC 2012-13 Cognitive resistance: some examples3a. Resistance toscientific knowledgein astronomy
  7. 7. ECC 2012-13 Cognitive resistance: some examples3b. Resistance toscientific knowledgein physics
  8. 8. ECC 2012-13 Cognitive resistance: some examples3c. Resistance toscientific knowledgein biology
  9. 9. ECC 2012 2012-13 ¤  (Bloom & Weisberg, 2007)¤  The developmental data suggest that resistance to science will arise in children when scientific claims clash with early emerging, intuitive expectations.¤  This resistance will persist through adulthood if the scientific claims are contested within a society, and will be especially strong if there is a non-scientific alternative that is rooted in common sense and championed by people who are taken as reliable and trustworthy.¤  This is the current situation in the United States with regard to the central tenets of neuroscience and of evolutionary biology
  10. 10. ECC 2012 2012-13 ¤  (Bloom & Weisberg, 2007)¤  The last several decades of developmental psychology has made it abundantly clear that humans do not start off as  "blank slates.”¤  Rather, even one year-olds possess a rich understanding of both the physical world (a "naïve physics") and the social world (a "naïve psychology").¤  Babies know that objects are solid, that they persist over time even when they are out of sight, that they fall to the ground if unsupported, and that they do not move unless acted upon. They also understand that people move autonomously in response to social and physical events, that they act and react in accord with their goals, and that they respond with appropriate emotions to different situations.
  11. 11. ECC 2012 2012-13¤ Developmental psychology: ¤  By the means of the habituation paradigm ¤  Renée Baillargeon, Elisabeth Spelke, Susan Carey, … ¤  Have been able to unmask several expectations about the physical world ¤  That hint at an activity of object parsing, extraction of statistical regularities, sensitivity to causes and production of causal explanations¤ These intuitions/naïve beliefs/core knowledge constitute a head start
  12. 12. ECC 2012 2012-13¤  They might be partly inherited ¤  the product of natural selection, or exaptations, spandrels…¤  partly acquired through early observation, imitation ¤  In any case a predisposition for observation and a sensitivity to certain stimuli is required ¤  And bias and heuristics can filter observation
  13. 13. ECC 2012-13Learning science and itsdifficultiesCognitive resistance to scientific facts and theoriesThe difficult acquisition of scientific concepts: Conceptual changeThe origins and development of science and the human mind:babies as scientists
  14. 14. ECC 2012 2012-13Form the understanding of science tothe mind: conceptual change¤  The notion and research on conceptual change starts in the late 1970s with instructional problems in mind, but on the trail of recent changes in the panorama of the philosophy of science (Nersessian 1992). ¤  In the mid-1960s the image of conceptual change as   continuous and cumulative is strongly criticized by the critics of positivism (Feyerabend, Kuhn) and the notions of revolution and incommensurability are introduced. ¤  They are successively more or less abandoned in favor of   the search for reasons for choosing among competing theories. 
  15. 15. ECC 2012 2012-13¤  The question of conceptual change has successively taken an important place in  science education, with cognitive psychologists arguing that conceptual change in science learning is similar to scientific revolutions and tracing analogies between history and individual learning of science.  ¤  The explosion of the interest for conceptual change in education runs parallel with the preoccupation for the renovation of STEM teaching and international competition form the end of the ‘60 and the end of the ‘90s. ¤  It represents one of the major cognitive science topics in education of that period
  16. 16. ECC 2012 2012-13 ¤  DiSessa, 2006¤  In the broad educational experience, some topics seem systematically to be extremely difficult for students. Learning and teaching in these areas are problematic and present persistent failures of conventional methods of instruction. Many areas in the sciences, from elementary school through university level, have this characteristic, including, in physics: concepts of matter and density, Newtonian mechanics, electricity, and relativity; in biology: evolution and genetics.
  17. 17. ECC 2012 2012-13 McCloskey 1983
  18. 18. ECC 2012 2012-13¤  Uncontroversial: ¤  Students arrive to instruction with prior ideas ¤  Prior ideas constrain successive learning¤  Controversial: ¤  In what consists the change? ¤  What changes? ¤  How does change occurs?
  19. 19. ECC 2012 2012-13 ¤  Bloom & Weisberg 2007¤  These intuitions give children a head start when it comes to understanding and learning about objects and people. But these intuitions also sometimes clash with scientific discoveries about the nature of the world, making certain scientific facts difficult to learn.¤  As Susan Carey once put it, the problem with teaching science to children is "not what the student lacks, but what the student has, namely alternative conceptual frameworks for understanding the phenomena covered by the theories we are trying to teach.
  20. 20. ECC 2012-13¤  Radical view of the nature of change = deep reorganization (e.g. Susan Carey) ¤  Substitution of old concepts with new ones ¤  incommensurability between conceptual systems ¤  2 main influences : ¤  Thomas Kuhn ¤  Jean Piaget
  21. 21. ECC 2012-13¤  Radical view of what changes = theories (e.g. Susan Carey, Alison Gopnik) that contain concepts¤  Ontologies have to change too (e.g. Magdalene Chi) because resistant mistakes derive from miscategorizations not just wrong concepts¤  Less radical view = frameworks (e.g. Stella Vosniadou) ¤  Theories are structured ¤  Frameworks are less structured, internal quasi- coherent explanatory systems, presuppositions
  22. 22. ECC 2012-13¤  Radical view of how to produce change = produce rational dissatisfaction with theories and explanations (e.g. George Posner) ¤  Create an environment with anomalies that conflict with hypotheses ¤  Be knowledgeable about children’s misconceptions
  23. 23. ECC 2012-13¤  The most radical view (in a sense): the baby as a scientist (Alison Gopnik)
  24. 24. ECC 2012-13¤  Soft view of what changes ¤  Knowledge in pieces or facets (Andrea DiSessa) ¤  Children’s (non-experts, non- scientists) knowledge is not structured, but fragmentary and local¤  Soft view of the nature of change ¤  Reasons for difficulty might be the same in the absence of previous inuitions¤  Soft view of how to produce change ¤  Some facets are consistent with science and can anchor instruction (John Minstrell) ¤  Use both conflict and analogy to produce good explanations (John Clement)
  25. 25. ECC 2012-13¤  Other questions: ¤  Are children really intuitively wrong? ¤  Or is it an artifact of how their beliefs are evaluated ? (e.g. Michael Siegal) ¤  Isn’t it possible that at least certain misconceptions are induced by instruction? (e.g. pathetic fallacy) ¤  Do children (and adults) really change their mind? ¤  There’s evidence that instruction masks previous beliefs rather thn transforming them (e.g. Andrew Shtulman, Kevin Dunbar)
  26. 26. ECC 2012-13 ¤  (Shtulman & Valcarcel 2012)¤  Our findings suggest that naïve theories are suppressed by scientific theories but not supplanted by them.¤  Across 10 domains, participants were significantly slower and less accurate at verifying statements whose truth-value reversed across a conceptual change (e.g., ‘‘1/13 is greater than 1/30’’) than at verifying structurally analogous statements whose truth-value remained constant across that change (e.g., ‘‘12/13 is greater than 1/13’’).¤  This effect was observed not only in domains where participants were introduced to the correct, scientific concepts in late adolescence but also in domains where they were introduced to those concepts in early childhood. Indeed, the latency data suggest that participants exhibited more cognitive conflict in the latter than in the former, possibly because naïve theories in the latter domains emerge earlier and are thus more deeply entrenched. (Shtulman & Varcalcel 2012)
  27. 27. ECC 2012-13Learning science and itsdifficultiesCognitive resistance to scientific facts and theoriesThe difficult acquisition of scientific concepts: Conceptual changeThe origins and development of science and the human mind:babies as scientists?
  28. 28. ECC 2012 2012-13 ¤  (Nersessian 1992, p. 5)¤  …our understanding of scientific knowledge practices needs to be psychologically realistic. Putting it baldly, creative scientists are not only exceptionally gifted human beings - they are also human beings with a biological and social makeup like all of us. In a fundamental sense, science is one product of the interaction of the human mind with the world and with other humans. We need to find out how human cognitive abilities and limitations constrain scientific theorizing…
  29. 29. ECC 2012-13Babies as scientists ¤  Gopnik, Meltzoff, Kuhl: strong continuity approach (ontological) ¤  Children not only possess core knowledge in various domains (Elisabeth Spelke, Paul Bloom) ¤  but extract regularities in the form of bayesian probabilities from the environment ¤  formulate hypotheses ¤  test them ¤  Children playing ins equivalent to experimentations
  30. 30. ECC 2012-13So-so scientists ¤  Pinker 1997 p. 303¤  Natural selection, however, did not shape us to earn good grades in science class or to publish in refereed journals. It shaped us to master the local environment, and that led to discrepancies between how we naturally think and what is demanded in the academy.¤  ...¤  Good science is pedantic, expensive, and subversive. It was an unlikely selection pressure within illiterate foraging bands like our ancestors, and we should expect peoples native “scientific” abilities to differ from the original article.
  31. 31. ECC 2012-13Forbidden intuitions ¤  R. Dawkins (about mystery in physics)¤  Isnt it possible that our evolved brains because we evolved in what I call "middle world", where we never have to cope either with the very small or the cosmologically very large, we may never actually have an intuitive feel for what is going on in quantum mechanics, we can still test the predictions, do the mathematics and do the physics to actually test the predictions because anybody can read the diagrams
  32. 32. ECC 2012-13Homo scientificus¤  The hypothesis of Homo scientificus cannot be deflated as quickly as (rational) homo economicus¤  We do science: it is a fact¤  Our cognitive apparatus must be somehow prepared for that¤  Research of cognitive precursors of science in the evolutionary (phylogeny) and developmental (ontogeny) past
  33. 33. ECC 2012 2012-13 Naturalization of scientific thinkingPrecursors Natural Natural Precursors Cognitive Cognitiveof scientific (cognitive) (cognitive) of scientific skills and skills andthinking in enemies of enemies of thinking in dispositions dispositionsphylogenes scientific scientific ontogeny displayed required foris thinking thinking by scientists science and and knowledge knowledge in in ontogeny phylogenyMithen McCauley Gopnik Simon QuineLiebenberg Boyer Chi Spelke Holyoak DiSessaCarruthers Atran Carey Carey DunbarPovinelli Tooby & Bloom Bloom Cosmides Pinker
  34. 34. ECC 2012-13Homo scientificus¤  The hypothesis of Homo scientificus cannot be deflated as quickly as (rational) homo economicus¤  We do science: it is a fact¤  Our cognitive apparatus must be somehow prepared for that¤  Research of cognitive precursors of science in the evolutionary (phylogeny) and developmental (ontogeny) past
  35. 35. ECC 2012-13The natural-cultural hypothesis¤  A mixed origin of science ¤  Nature: core knowledge, curiosity, causal reasoning, sensitivity to regularities, … ¤  = capacities that reveal themselves very easily in the ontogenetic development and probably go far in our evolutionary past ¤  Culture: social cooperation and tools for augmenting cognitive capacities (e.g. writing for transmission, spatial external representations) ¤  = capacities that have a natural basis and make our culture special
  36. 36. ECC 2012-13 ¤  D. Dennett¤  But what we can see is that what scientists have constructed over the centuries is the  tools, mind tools, thinking tools, mathematical tools which enable us to some degree to overcome the limitations of our evolved brains, our stone-age, if you like, brains;¤  and overcoming those limitations is not always direct sometimes you have to give up something  you get, you just may never be able as you to think intuitively about this, but you can know, even if you cant think it intuitively, there  is this laborious process you can make progress  and you can have the seed of a certain authority to the progress that you can test that and it can carry you from A to B in the same way you know if you are quadriplegic an artificial device can carry you from A to B, you cant walk from A to B but you get from A to B.
  37. 37. ECC 2012-13Unnaturaleness of science for thehuman mind¤  (McCauley 2000) ¤  … In calling religion "natural" and science "unnatural" in this second sense, I am suggesting two things. ¤  First, the elaborate cultural institutions surrounding each play a far more integral role in the generation and persistence of science than they do in the case of religion. (Indeed, for some religious systems, e.g., among prehistoric hunter- gatherers, such far-reaching cultural institutions have never existed.) ¤  Second, most of the cognitive activity underlying religion concerns cognitive processes that rely far less on particular cultural input, particular forms of cultural input, or even peculiarly cultural input than is the case with science.
  38. 38. conclusion¤ There are many reasons why science education: learning and teaching is difficult, but possible¤ Distributed “cultural” cognition might be crucial for our capacity for science
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