“Probably true” says the expert: how two types of lexical hedges influence students’ evaluation of scientificness
- 295 Downloads
Contemporary school learning typically includes the processing of popular scientific information as found in journals, magazines, and/or the WWW. The German high school curriculum emphasizes that students should have achieved science literacy and have learned to evaluate the substance of text-based learning content by the end of high school. Alongside the content of science-related information, two issues are important when students gauge its substance: (a) information about its source, such as whether an expert has provided it (attribution shields) and (b) its wording, for example, whether so-called markers of tentativeness such as “probably” point to a preliminary assessment (plausibility shields). Based on the outcomes of a content analysis of the usage of such shields, we report an experiment that varied the occurrence of both types of shields in single arguments. Results showed effects of both manipulations on the perception and evaluation of arguments. However, information about the source impacted more strongly on the evaluation than the wording. We relate this finding to the formulation of as well as students’ processing of text-based learning content and suggest practical implications for teaching students how to handle scientific information.
KeywordsScience learning Evaluation of scientific arguments Source information Hedging Scientific uncertainty
This research was supported by a grant from the German Science Foundation given to the second and third authors [JU 471/2-3]. The authors thank Jonathan Harrow for language editing and Christina Hanna and Julia Wichelmann for help with the data analysis.
- Appel, M., & Schreiner, C. (2014). Digitale Demenz? Mythen und wissenschaftliche Befundlage zur Auswirkung von Internetnutzung [Digital dementia? Myths and scientific evidence on the effect of internet use]. Psychologische Rundschau, 65(1), 1–10. doi: 10.1026/0033-3042/a000186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Bråten, I., Ferguson, L. E., Strømsø, H. I., & Øistein, A. (2013). Justification beliefs and multiple-documents comprehension. Journal of Psychology of Education, 28(3), 879–902.Google Scholar
- Burrell, N. A., & Koper, R. J. (1998). The efficacy of powerful/powerless language on attitudes and source credibility. In M. Allen & R. W. Preiss (Eds.), Persuasion: advances through meta-analysis (pp. 203–215). Cresskill: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
- Butler, C. (1990). Qualifications in science: modal meanings in scientific texts. In W. Nash (Ed.), The writing scholar: studies in academic discourse (pp. 137–170). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
- Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Crismore, A., & Farnsworth, R. (1990). Metadiscourse in popular and professional science discourse. In W. Nash (Ed.), The writing scholar: studies in academic discourse (pp. 45–68). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
- Hahn, U., Harris, A. J. L., & Corner, A. J. (2009). Argument content and argument source: an exploration. Informal Logic, 29, 337–367.Google Scholar
- Hosman, L. A. (2002). Language and persuasion. In J. P. Dillard & M. W. Pfau (Eds.), The persuasion handbook: developments in theory and practice (pp. 233–258). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
- Jucks, R., & Paus, E. (2012). What makes a word difficult? Insights into the mental representation of technical terms. Metacognition & Learning, 7, 91–111. doi: 10.1007/s11409-011-9084-6.
- Jucks, R., & Paus, E. (2013). Different Words for the Same Concept: Learning Collaboratively From Multiple Documents. Cognition and Instruction 31(2), 497–518. doi: 10.1080/07370008.2013.769993.
- Liu, X. (2009). Beyond science literacy: science and the public. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 4, 301–311.Google Scholar
- Meyer, P. G. (1997). Hedging strategies in written academic discourse: strengthening the argument by weakening the claim. In R. Markkanen & H. Schröder (Eds.), Hedging and discourse: approaches to the analysis of a pragmatic phenomenon in academic texts (pp. 21–41). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Mayweg-Paus, E. & Jucks, R. (2014). Evident or doubtful? How Lexical Hints in Written Information Influence Laypersons' Understanding of Influenza. Psychology, Health & Medicine. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2014.986139.
- Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (2014). Kernlehrplan für die Sekundarstufe II Gymnasium/Gesamtschule in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Deutsch. Retrieved from http://www.schulentwicklung.nrw.de/lehrplaene/upload/klp_SII/d/KLP_GOSt_Deutsch.pdf.
- Perfetti, C. A., Britt, M. A., & Georgi, M. C. (1995). Text-based learning and reasoning: studies in history. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Pinto, M. A., Iliceto, P., & Melogno, S. (2011). Argumentative abilities in metacognition and in metalinguistics: a study on university students. Journal of Psychology of Education, 27(1), 35–58.Google Scholar
- Prince, E. F., Frader, J., & Bosk, C. (1982). On hedging in physician-physician discourse. In R. J. Di Prieto (Ed.), Linguistics and the professions (pp. 83–97). Norwood: Alex.Google Scholar
- Spiewak, M. (2012). Macht uns der Computer dumm [Do computers make us dumb]? ZEIT, 37, 1–3. Retrieved from http://www.zeit.de/2012/37/Jugendliche-Medienkonsum-Spitzer-Vorderer.Google Scholar
- Stocking, S. H. (1999). How journalists deal with scientific uncertainty. In S. Friedman, S. Dunwoody, & C. Rogers (Eds.), Communicating uncertainty: media coverage of new and controversial science (pp. 23–42). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar