Neural and behavioural correlates of science reasoning during adolescence.

by Jack White-Foy, Dulwich College


Inhibitory control is thought to play a role in conceptual change, whereby a naïve idea is inhibited in favour of the correct scientific one but is never truly erased. Activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex have been associated with better performance on misconception tasks in children and adults and could represent a network of error detection and response inhibition. Adolescence represents a period of development in brain structure and function but little research into science reasoning and conceptual change has been undertaken with this age group. Using modified versions of the Stroop and Go/No-Go tasks with 20 adolescent participants aged 11-15 years old, semantic and response inhibition performance were measured. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging data, the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and pre-supplementary motor area showed greater activation during unique science tasks but was not associated with better performance on the misconception questions. Whilst there was no relationship between inhibitory control and performance on misconception tasks, better verbal IQ, working memory and a larger reaction time cost were associated with better performance. Implications for teaching and opportunities for future research are discussed.

MA dissertation – Birkbeck / UCL Institute of Education

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