Is inhibition involved in overcoming a common physics misconception in mechanics?

Brault Foisy, L.-M., Potvin, P., Riopel, M. et Masson, S. (2015). Is inhibition involved in overcoming a common physics misconception in mechanics? Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 4(1-2), 26-36.

ABSTRACT

Science education is often challenged by students׳ misconceptions about various phenomena. Recent studies show that these misconceptions coexist with scientific conceptions, even after a conceptual change occurs. However, the mechanisms involve in overcoming the interference caused by this coexistence remain poorly understood. A possible explanation is that inhibition could play a role in learning science. An fMRI protocol was used to obtain functional brain images of novices and experts while performing a cognitive task in mechanics, a scientific discipline for which misconceptions are known to be frequent and persistent. The results show that experts, significantly more than novices, activate brain areas associated with inhibition: the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This suggests that the experts׳ misconceptions in mechanics have not been eradicated or transformed during learning; they would rather have remained encoded in their brain and were then inhibited to provide a correct answer.

Keywords: Misconception; Inhibition; Scientific expertise; Conceptual change; Science education; fMRI

Click here to access article