CE28 - Cognition, éducation, formation tout au long de la vie

Children’s Learning and Generalization of Novel Concepts with Comparison Designs – Compare

Submission summary

Our main purpose is to study the impact of comparisons of stimuli in order to improve conceptual learning and generalization from static pictures, or animations. Our main hypothesis is that comparisons of visual stimuli, by contrast with presentations of single stimuli, enhance learning conceptual contents (e.g., Gentner & Namy, 1999). Our project integrates fundamental and applied issues: (1) we study conditions under which comparisons are efficient for conceptual learning and why there are efficient in typically and atypically developing children, and (2) we want to design better learning, including e-learning, tools that will help both children in concept learning activities. It will investigate two comparisons situations (i) a method using comparison between static pictures (and animations) which emphasizes compare-contrast activities (e.g., Gentner, 2010; Augier & Thibaut, 2013) (ii) a method using a progressive composition of processes presented in animations and based on an isolation technique (Lowe & Boucheix, 2008, 2012).
On theoretical grounds, our project capitalizes on recent works in cognitive development showing that picture comparison situations led to generalizations based on conceptually deeper dimensions (e.g., taxonomic relations) or on less salient unifying dimensions (e.g., texture rather than shape) than single exemplar conditions leading to perceptually-based or thematically-based generalizations (e.g., Gentner & Namy, 1999). In cognitive ergonomics, works on comprehension and learning from interactive visualization processing (pictures, animations; Lowe & Boucheix, 2013) have shown that participants build conceptual relations by comparing successive components or events in visualizations. Our work will focus on cognitive processes (temporal organization, planning, and inhibition of perceptual salient features) involved in comparisons activities and will lead to motivated designs for e-learning tools, screen simulations and books.
Our project uses an experimental approach contrasting comparison with no-comparison conditions, composition with no-composition conditions, with typically and atypically developing children (simple concepts or scientific concepts). Eye tracking techniques will capture the temporal dynamics of comparisons, together with the behavioral data. We will also use new techniques to analyze scanpaths and model them. We want to extract regularities distinguishing age groups, typical and atypical participants, and experimental conditions. Non verbal material will be designed using, simple 2D visual stimuli and simple animations.
Research team
The present project privileges a multidisciplinary approach, associating cognitive and developmental psychology, including specialists in mental deficiency, eye movements and cognitive-ergonomics (LEAD-CNRS), computer science and ; The research team consists of several senior researchers, all with extensive experience in the area of comparison processes, cognitive ergonomics and/or developmental psychology.
The project is an international collaboration with an important learning technology laboratory (Curtin University, Perth, Australia). Two French companies will join the project.
Potential environmental, societal and economic benefits
This project is timely with contemporary questions raised by learning devices. A relevant organization of the conceptual content grounded on the cognitive principles involved in conceptualization activities is crucial to design efficient learning situations. The project will lead to the design of prototypes of principled conceptual contents targeted at young children concept learning.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


uliege Université de Liège / Faculté de Psychologie, de Logopédie, et des Sciences de l'Education
Curtin University of Technology / School of Education

Help of the ANR 205,162 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2018 - 42 Months

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