Our first study has confirmed that even preschool children have a strong bias toward congruent pieces of information. When presented with information about two physical relations, for example about how dimension A is related to dimension B (A-B), and how dimension B is related to dimension C (B-C), preschoolers infer that the third relation (A-C) is congruent with the other two relations. Children have difficulty distinguishing between relations presented to them and the relation they inferred, underscoring the strength of their bias toward overall congruence. This finding support our hypothesis that children's active search for order and Gestalt can lead to misconceptions.
We furthermore found that the organization of stimuli in the immediate context matters for children's understanding about the density of materials. When density was manipulated in such a way that materials were either very dense or not very dense, preschoolers quickly tune in to differences in density (rather than differences in mass alone, or differences in volume alone). However, when the same stimuli were paired up in such a way that mass or volume were highly salient, the same children made density mistakes. The findings demonstrate the importance of structuring the learning environment appropriately.
Kloos, H. (2008). Will it float? How invariance affects children's understanding of object density. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 687-692). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Kloos, H. & Sloutsky, V. (2008). Removing the time crutch: Can preschoolers still make causal judgments? In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1146-1151). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.