Do experts and novices direct attention differently in examining physics diagrams? A study of change detection using the flicker technique

Jason W. Morphew, Jose P. Mestre, Brian H. Ross, Natalie E. Strand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

It is known that experts identify or perceive meaningful patterns in visual stimuli related to their domain of expertise. This study explores the speed with which experts and novices detect changes in physics diagrams. Since change detection depends on where individuals direct their attention, differences in the speed with which experts and novices detect changes to diagrams would suggest differences in attention allocation between experts and novices. We present data from an experiment using the "flicker technique," in which both physics experts and physics novices viewed nearly identical pairs of diagrams that are representative of typical introductory physics situations. The two diagrams in each pair contain a subtle difference that either does or does not change the underlying physics depicted in the diagram. Findings indicate that experts are faster at detecting physics-relevant changes than physics-irrelevant changes; however, there is no difference in response time for novices, suggesting that expertise guides attention for experts when inspecting physics diagrams. We discuss the cognitive implications of our findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number020104
JournalPhysical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 12 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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