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Title: The cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning in adolescence
Author: Brookman-Byrne, Annie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 8956
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis took an educational neuroscience approach to investigate the cognitive and neural bases of science and maths reasoning in adolescence. The studies investigated the cognitive skills required to reason effectively in science and maths, and in particular about counterintuitive concepts, where misconceptions may be held. Misconceptions remain throughout schooling, likely interfering with academic success, and often persisting into adulthood. The specific roles of inhibitory control and relational reasoning were examined. Inhibitory control, the ability to suppress a prepotent response, is thought to enable the inhibition of intuitive concepts, while relational reasoning, the ability to detect patterns, is thought to allow the extension of conceptual understanding to different domains. All studies focussed on adolescence, when these skills are still developing, and when science and maths reasoning are essential for compulsory school exams. The first behavioural study showed that both response and semantic inhibition predicted variance in counterintuitive reasoning specifically, when controlling for general cognitive ability. Two classroom studies that were designed with teachers did not find that inhibitory control associated with misconception presence, before or after a lesson on a specific counterintuitive concept. The first analysis of brain data from a functional magnetic resonance imaging study showed that brain activations associated with both response and semantic inhibition overlapped with those recruited when adolescents reasoned about science and maths misconceptions. The second analysis of these brain data indicated that verbal analogical reasoning predicted unique variance in science performance and neural activation in maths, while non-verbal relational reasoning was associated with neural activation in science. Finally, the second behavioural study showed verbal analogical and non-verbal relational reasoning to relate to general science and maths performance but also specifically to counterintuitive reasoning. Overall, the results indicate that inhibitory control and relational reasoning are two skills associated with success in school-related science and maths.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available