Averages can conceal how people and science learn | Science News


Support Science Journalism

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

Editor's Note

Averages can conceal how people and science learn

11:06am, November 16, 2016

Picture a learning curve. Most of us imagine a smooth upward slope that rises with steady mastery. It is the ultimate image of progress.

But that image, as behavioral sciences writer Bruce Bower reports in "Kids learning curve not so smooth" (SN: 11/26/16, p. 6), may well be an illusion of statistics, created when people look at averages of a group instead of how individuals actually learn. That’s what scientists at the University of Cambridge found when quizzing preschoolers’ developing ability to understand that other people can have false beliefs, an important milestone in the development of a theory of mind.

For many learners, the study suggests, mastery comes in fits and starts, a graphical zigzagging

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content