The Development of an Intuitive Understanding of Entropy



Previous studies of the concept of entropy have indicated that before 7 to 9 years of age, children have difficulty understanding the effects of randomizing forces and often predict highly improbable events, such as a return to the original ordered state. In the present research, 306 children between 3 and 11 years of age were asked directly whether undifferentiated forces, such as the wind or objects being thrown into the air, could create order or disorder in a set of objects. The results showed that even 4-year-olds are sensitive to the asymmetrical effects of such events. Older children apply this principle more consistently and are able to use it in explaining their answers.