Development of formal hypothesis-testing ability

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Abstract

Suggests that formal operational hypothesis-testing ability includes at least 3 cognitive capacities: (a) implication comprehension, the ability to understand conditional relationships; (b) falsification strategy, the realization that to test a hypothesis, one must seek information that would falsify it; and (c) nonverification insight, the realization that hypotheses are not conclusively verified by supporting data. A total of 24 males at each of 3 age levels (Grades 7, 10, and college) evaluated data descriptions with respect to each of 4 hypothesized implication relationships and chose an experiment to test each hypothesis. Results suggest 3 sequences of qualitative change in hypothesis-testing ability: (a) from no systematic interpretation of conditionals to an implication interpretation, (b) from content-based information seeking to a falsification strategy, and (c) from a symmetrical conception of truth and falsity to a nonverification insight. However, formal operational performance was far from universal, even in college students. (25 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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