UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Commonsense understanding of causes of motion.

Whitelock, Denise Mary; (1990) Commonsense understanding of causes of motion. Doctoral thesis , Institute of Education, University of London. Green open access

[thumbnail of 121191_Redacted.pdf]
121191_Redacted.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

Download (4MB) | Preview
[thumbnail of 121191_Original.pdf] Text
121191_Original.pdf - Accepted Version
Access restricted to UCL open access staff
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

Download (5MB)


There are many findings about children's spontaneous reasoning in dynamics. These studies suggest that a non-Newtonian framework is used by students across a large age range but there is controversy as to whether pupils' conceptions represent systematic mental structures or temporary constructions. Ogborn (1985) constructed a theory of commonsense understanding of motion, which proposes a definite structure of thinking. Unlike much previous work, his theory is susceptible to testing. This research sets out to test this hypothesis about the content and nature of commonsense ideas of motion. After preliminary work using interviews and repertory grids, a formal model of the theory was constructed which provided the basis for the collection of data in the main study. The adoption of a causal model of motion provided a template for linking primitive abstractions such as effort and support in a natural way. In order to test a large number and wide age range of subjects (7 - 16 years), a matching pairs paper and pencil task was developed for the main study. Subjects were asked to distinguish between examples of nine stereotypical motions by comparing the similarity or difference of the causes of pairs of motions. It was then possible to test theoretical predictions of the comparisons against empirical data. The results suggest that people's responses can be predicted by the model but that there is an improvement in the correlations with the additon of an animacy correction. An independent test was carried out where the animate nature of moving objects was varied systematically and it was found that this feature, previously neglected by the theoretical account, was an important distinction in subjects' consideration of causes of motion. As predicted, the results were similar over a considerable age range, being however better for older children than the younger ones. Taking account both of these results and of Piaget's description of the sensori-motor period of child development, a new version of the model is proposed, and tested against the available data.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Commonsense understanding of causes of motion.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Some content on the public version has been redacted due to third party rights or other legal issues and is labelled as such in the document. The thesis is therefore numbered as 370 pages not 386 as originally stated.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10018497
Downloads since deposit
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item