Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Differences in visual attention between those who correctly and incorrectly answer physics problems"

This is a rather unique study that I haven't seen before done to people who are tackling physics problems. They tracked the eye movement of the participants in dealing with a particular physics problem, and they noticed differences on the area of focus between those who are just learning physics versus those who are already experts/physicists.

Abstract: This study investigated how visual attention differed between those who correctly versus incorrectly answered introductory physics problems. We recorded eye movements of 24 individuals on six different conceptual physics problems where the necessary information to solve the problem was contained in a diagram. The problems also contained areas consistent with a novicelike response and areas of high perceptual salience. Participants ranged from those who had only taken one high school physics course to those who had completed a Physics Ph.D. We found that participants who answered correctly spent a higher percentage of time looking at the relevant areas of the diagram, and those who answered incorrectly spent a higher percentage of time looking in areas of the diagram consistent with a novicelike answer. Thus, when solving physics problems, top-down processing plays a key role in guiding visual selective attention either to thematically relevant areas or novicelike areas depending on the accuracy of a student’s physics knowledge. This result has implications for the use of visual cues to redirect individuals’ attention to relevant portions of the diagrams and may potentially influence the way they reason about these problems.

You should be able to get a copy of the paper for free at the link above.


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