Asking young children to “do science” instead of “be scientists” increases science engagement in a randomized field experiment

Marjorie Rhodes, Amanda Cardarelli, Sarah Jane Leslie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Subtle features of common language can imply to young children that scientists are a special and distinct kind of person—a way of thinking that can interfere with the development of children’s own engagement with science. We conducted a large field experiment (involving 45 prekindergarten schools, 130 teachers, and over 1,100 children) to test if targeting subtle properties of language can increase science engagement in children’s daily lives. Despite strong tendencies to describe scientists as a special kind of person (in a baseline control condition), brief video-based training changed the language that teachers used to introduce science to their students. These changes in language were powerful enough to predict children’s science interest and behavior days later. Thus, subtle features of language shape children’s beliefs and behaviors as they unfold in real world environments. Harnessing these mechanisms could promote science engagement in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9808-9814
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume117
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - May 5 2020

Keywords

  • Cognitive development
  • Generic language
  • Science education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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