Science & Education

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 677–694 | Cite as

Healing, Mental Energy in the Physics Classroom: Energy Conceptions and Trust in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Grade 10–12 Students

  • Annika M. Svedholm
  • Marjaana Lindeman


Lay conceptions of energy often conflict with scientific knowledge, hinder science learning and scientific literacy, and provide a basis for ungrounded beliefs. In a sample of Finnish upper secondary school students, energy was attributed with features of living and animate beings and thought of as a mental property. These ontologically confused conceptions (OCC) were associated with trust in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and independent of scientifically valid conceptions. Substance-based energy conceptions followed the correlational pattern of OCC, rather than scientific conceptions. OCC and CAM decreased both during the regular school physics curriculum and after a lesson targeted at the ontological confusions. OCC and CAM were slightly less common among students with high actively open-minded thinking, low trust in intuition and high need for cognition. The findings are discussed in relation to the goals of scientific education.


Cognitive Style Secondary School Student Mental Property Ontological Category Energy Conception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research was supported by grants from Nylands Nation and the Finnish Cultural Foundation to the first author. We thank all the teachers whose courses the study was carried out in for their time and collaboration.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology, Institute of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiUniversity of HelsinkiFinland

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