Effecting re-representation: revising false beliefs and fostering creativity


Perhaps the greatest challenge to successful learning and problem solving is when learners initially represent the novel problem or concept in a way that conflicts with the proper solution or content to be learned. For example, naïve conceptions of force often lead to failure to show any learning gains from lessons on Newton’s laws of motion (e.g., Muller, Sharma, & Reiman, 2008), and knowledge of typical functions prevent using familiar artefacts in novel ways to solve otherwise simple problems (Adamson, 1952). Further, rampant society-wide misconceptions, such as the belief that vaccines cause autism, or deny the causal role of humans in global warming, are having disastrous effects on public health and environmental policy. On the flip side, overcoming the constraints of an initial representation can spark creative innovation. For example, the Dyson vacuum cleaner is famously based on the re-conception of the vacuum mechanism via an analogy to saw mills.

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