The acquisition of formal operational schemata during adolescence: The role of the biconditional

Authors


Abstract

To test the hypothesis that the basic “logic” utilized by individuals in scientific hypothesis testing is the biconditional (if and only if), and that the biconditional is a precondition for the development of formal operations, a sample of 387 students in grades eight, ten, twelve, and college were administered eight reasoning items. Five of the items involved the formal operational schemata of probability, proportions and correlations. Two of the items involved propositions and correlations. Two of the items involved propositional logic. One item involved the biconditional. Percentages of correct responses on most of the items increased with age. A principal-component analysis revealed three factors, two of which were identified as involving operational thought, one of which involved propositional logic. As predicted, the biconditional reasoning item loaded on one of the operational thought factors. A Guttman scale analysis of the items failed to reveal a unidimensional scale, yet the biconditional reasoning item ordered first supporting the hypothesis that it is a precondition for formal operational reasoning. Implications for teaching science students how to test hypotheses are discussed.

Ancillary