Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Coming up with explanations helps children develop cause-and-effect thinking skills

Date:
April 22, 2014
Source:
University of Texas at Austin
Summary:
Children learn more effectively when they are asked to explain and explore, new research shows. The study shows that young children who come up with explanations while learning are able to connect new ideas with prior cause-and-effect knowledge. By forming their own generalizations, learners can more efficiently understand novel information.

Asking children to come up with explanations -- even to themselves -- enhances their cause-and-effect learning abilities, according to new psychology research from The University of Texas at Austin.

Related Articles


The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, shows that young children who come up with explanations while learning are able to connect new ideas with prior cause-and-effect knowledge. By forming their own generalizations, learners can more efficiently understand novel information, says Cristine Legare, associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

To examine the potential benefits of explanation-based learning, Legare and her collaborator, Tania Lombrozo of the University of California at Berkeley, presented 182 preschoolers (ages 3 to 6) with a mechanical toy composed of colorful, interlocking gears with a crank on one end and a propeller on the other. After showing the children the basics of the toy's moving parts, the researchers separated the children into two groups and asked them to either explain or observe the toy. To assess the learning effects of explanatory versus descriptive responses, the researchers prompted the children with more questions about the toy's appearance and structure.

According to the results of both studies, the explainers across all age groups outperformed other children in understanding the cause-and-effect operations of the toy. They were also better at rebuilding the toy and transferring that new knowledge to other learning tasks. However, explaining does not improve -- and can even impair -- memory for details, such as the toy's size, shapes and colors.

So why do explainers do so well in understanding the toy's functionality, but falter when it comes to memorizing specific details? One possibility, Legare says, is that explanation helps the learner focus more on understanding cause-and-effect mechanisms, but not so much on the perceptual details.

Although much is still unknown about the role of explanation in early childhood learning, it's clear that explaining engages young learners in ways that other cognitive processes do not.

"Understanding the ways in which explanation does -- and does not -- improve learningspeaks not only to questions about the development of cause-and-effect knowledge, but also to questions about how to most effectively harness explanation for use in educational interventions," Legare says.

In another paper, published in Child Development Perspectives, Legare examines the learning benefits of explanation and exploration, two cognitive processes that work in tandem to comprehend novel information. When teachers and parents ask children to explain "why" and "how," they give them an opportunity to think like scientists, Legare says. This approach is effective in and outside the classroom, she notes.

"The way children gather evidence through exploration and understand it through explanation provides insights into the development of scientific reasoning," Legare says. "This strategy can help young children harness their potential for scientific reasoning and improve their critical thinking skills," Legare says.

The article can be found online at: http://www.concepts.dreamhosters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Selective-Effects-of-Explanation-on-Learning-in-Early-Childhood.pdf


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cristine Legare et al. Selective Effects of Explanation on Learning in Early Childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, April 2014

Cite This Page:

University of Texas at Austin. "Coming up with explanations helps children develop cause-and-effect thinking skills." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422130855.htm>.
University of Texas at Austin. (2014, April 22). Coming up with explanations helps children develop cause-and-effect thinking skills. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422130855.htm
University of Texas at Austin. "Coming up with explanations helps children develop cause-and-effect thinking skills." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140422130855.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins