Explanations and Possible Origins of Initial Perceptual Naive Misconceptions and Understandings

Before students develop logic they use a variety of strategies to explain their world. These strategies develop from sensory experiences with their world and are limited by their lack of experience, age maturation, and development of logic and reasoning. A constructivist Piagetian based learning theory is helpful in explaining this development. This article focuses on the characteristics of some common errors children make in their reasoning and logic.


Young children begin their construction of logical reasoning with direct observation and comparing one observation to another. Which results with them reasoning with the perceptual senses as reality, rather than the perceptual sense as a representation of a real external object or idea, which can be operated on with logic.

For example: a child standing on a railroad track will process their internal visual perception of the tracks as getting smaller and narrowing with distance.

In other situations children will use their internal visual perceptions as snap shots which can be compared one to another without the use of logic or other constructed operations such as: perspective, scale, proportion, relative position, motion, or other constructed operations of reasoning and understanding.

Examples - Pennies are worth more than a dime because they are bigger or there are more and only one dime. Five blocks together are less than five blocks spread out, one wire is smaller because it bent...

To be able to reason more accurately children must construct mental structures such as those needed to conserve. Which means they must be able to do the following.

  1. Decenter (center focus on one feature and ignore others),
  2. Use reversibility (able to see that some actions can be undone),
  3. See transformations (able to see change as an infinite series),
  4. Stop the use of egocentric thinking, (all actions are related to them) and
  5. Stop the use of transductive reasoning (faulty reasoning)

For more check links in the: Development of Children and Adolescents Directory

Being limited with the use of these operations, the ability to conserve, and use logic children use their internal sensory perceptions to directly reason with or use properties they have associated or connect with them to reason for understanding. Often making comparisons from one internal perception to another with an analogy to derive explanations. These kinds of comparisons may lead to illogical conclusions. Some being created by using:

The more experiences a person has in exploring and explaining their world, the greater the information and operations each person has to access when trying to explain their world. This is dependent on observational evidence processed with sound logical reasoning of those observations so the information can be organized in ways to better organize the information to create reasonable explanations and models for which they can feel confident.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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