Robert Goldstone

January 25, 2010

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Abstract for talk:

Scientific and mathematical reasoning depend on analytic thought, making novel and creative associations between dissimilar domains, and developing deep construals of phenomena that run counter to untutored perceptions. This has led many researchers to draw an opposition between superficial perception and principled understanding. In this talk, I advocate the converse strategy of grounding scientific and mathematical reasoning in perception and action. I will describe empirical evidence for perceptual changes that accompany learning in science and mathematics. In science, my laboratory has explored the perceptually grounded transfer of scientific principles across superficially dissimilar pedagogical simulations. We argue that transfer occurs when students develop perceptual interpretations of an initial situation and simply continue to use the same interpretational tendency when interacting with a second situation. In arithmetic and algebraic reasoning, we find that proficiency in mathematics involves executing spatially explicit transformations to notational elements. People learn to attend mathematical operations in the order in which they should be executed, and the extent to which students employ their perceptual attention in this manner is positively correlated with their mathematical experience. For both science and mathematics, relatively sophisticated performance is achieved not by ignoring perceptual features in favor of deep conceptual features, but rather by adapting perceptual processing so as to conform with and support formally sanctioned responses. These "Rigged Up Perceptual Systems" offer a promising strategy for achieving educational reform.

Suggested Articles:

Goldstone, R. L., Landy, D., & Son, J. Y. (2008). A well grounded education: The role of perception in science and mathematics. In M. de Vega, A. Glenberg, & A. Graesser (Eds.) Symbols, embodiment, and meaning. Oxford Press (pp . 327-355). [.pdf]

Goldstone, R. L., Landy, D. H., & Son, J. Y. (in press). The education of perception. Topics in Cognitive Science, X-X. [.pdf]

Landy, D. & Goldstone, R. L. (2007). How abstract is symbolic thought? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 33, 720-733. [.pdf]

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