טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
M.Sc Thesis
M.Sc StudentGarah Lulu
SubjectImplicit Vs. Explicit Physics Knowledge: Brain responses
to naive concepts on the motion of the pendulum
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Miriam Reiner
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

Research shows that the knowledge students acquire throughout life shapes students’ understanding in physics. These pre-conceptions (naïve knowledge), play a crucial role in physics education. One of the naïve concepts is the motion of a falling pendulum whose rope was cut. Caramazza, McCloskey & Green (1981) showed that 68% of population predicts the course of the motion incorrectly.  However, other studies show that students catch balls and predict ballistic motion correctly. This indicates that there is a conceptual mismatch between explicit knowledge, i.e. verbal, aware knowledge, and implicit knowledge, i.e. knowledge that we have without awareness. Although this has been suggested, empirical neural evidence has not been provided yet. This study attempts to bridge this gap and provide evidence on opposing views of ‘what is correct’, i.e. evidence on the consistency/inconsistency across students’ personal, coexisting belief systems

In this study, the consistency between brain responses to visually in/correct concepts that are in/consistent with participants’ naïve knowledge was explored.  The consistency between verbal concepts (explicit) and implicit knowledge as expressed in catching a falling pendulum was tested. Specifically, the study explored how participants who showed explicit misconceptions concerning falling pendulum motion responded when they viewed both correct/incorrect pendulum motion illustrated in a Virtual reality (VR), and if they held correct/incorrect implicit knowledge as reflected in the EEG and bodily acts. Using VR technology allowed the demonstration of im/possible physics events as if they were "real". In addition, it allowed the participants to interact with these events.

Twenty-four participants underwent three tests: a pre-test that included questions detecting naïve concepts including a falling pendulum question; A Response-Time test, in which participants tried catching the falling pendulum (in Virtual-Reality) in different situations --according to in/correct physics laws-- matching the situations in the pre-test. Then we recorded EEG-signals to test brain electrical activity when watching the falling pendulum in all situations.

Results show that 63% of participants showed incorrect pre-concepts concerning the falling pendulum motion; i.e. only 37% showed correct explicit physics knowledge. However, the average response time of catching the falling pendulum in the correct path is significantly (p<0.000) smaller than the response time for the incorrect paths for all participants. When dividing the participants into two groups according to their pre-concepts, the response time of catching the falling pendulum is significantly (p<0.000) smaller for the correct path for both groups. This suggests that the brain recognized the correct motion in spite of the explicit misconception. Moreover, the brain electrical activity results demonstrated  that all participants showed an average higher amplitude of P300 when they watched the pendulum falling in the incorrect path compared to the correct path, indicating a "surprise" factor for the incorrect path for all participants, again, indicating correct implicit physics knowledge, in-spite of the incorrect explicit knowledge. This suggests that on the implicit level students ‘know physics’ and whereas on the explicit level, they do not. The explicit is nourished by the classroom and formal learning interaction suggesting a deep need for changes in the formal learning system.