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Title: The effect of source reliability on the understanding of causal systems in primary and secondary school children
Author: Symons, Germaine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 9158
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Individuals have excellent intuitive understanding of the physical world around them, evident from an early age. However, implicit understanding does not always transfer to explicit knowledge. The evaluation of source reliability is a crucial scientific reasoning skill that may assist in this transfer. Both adults and children have been shown to pay attention to source reliability, preferring higher reliability sources. However, assessments in children have generally used artificial manipulations of source reliability, and the degree to which younger children are showing epistemic awareness regarding potential source knowledge is unclear. The study aims were to investigate the development of epistemic awareness in relation to what sources might know; to compare the developmental trajectory of implicit and explicit understanding of a familiar causal system; to enable a more direct comparison between the adult and child literature on source reliability; and to assess any role played by gender and language. A more naturalistic task, a typical science class problem related to forces and motion, was employed. Six- to 17-year-olds were asked questions regarding their causal understanding, before and after receiving unexpected information from differentially reliable sources, and after carrying out an intervention, observing that the information was correct. As predicted, participants who received information from high reliability sources were more likely to make correct predictions and explanations regarding the causal system. Participants who understood the causal system were more convinced than those who did not, and higher reliability source information increased conviction. Also, males made more correct predictions than females, although this could be confounded by age and SES differences. However, there were no age or language-related effects regarding source reliability, possibly due to demographic differences within the sample. Future research looking at the role of source reliability in scientific reasoning should shift the paradigm into real-life environments, and include demographic and individual-differences measures.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available