Plausibility Judgments in Conceptual Change and Epistemic Cognition.

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Educational Psychologist





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Plausibility judgments rarely have been addressed empirically in conceptual change research. Recent research, however, suggests that these judgments may be pivotal to conceptual change about certain topics where a gap exists between what scientists and laypersons find plausible. Based on a philosophical and empirical foundation, this article presents a theoretical model of the role of plausibility judgments in conceptual change (PJCC) with implications for epistemic cognition. The PJCC moves beyond the limitations of cold cognitive processing by incorporating the warmer constructs of affect, motivation, and motivated reasoning. We review recent research in plausibility judgments that informed the PJCC's development and discuss components of the model. Of particular note is the importance of using explicit critical evaluation to reappraise plausibility judgments that may have been originally made through implicit cognitive processes. We also suggest potentially productive areas of future research based on the PJCC model. Our overall purpose is to present a theoretical model on the role of plausibility judgments in conceptual change (PJCC) that incorporates philosophical perspectives and recent empirical research. For example, the PJCC includes the warm constructs of motivation, affect, and motivated reasoning, which have not been included in prior models. Before presenting the PJCC, we discuss prior models of plausibility. We next examine how plausibility judgments have been implicated in several broader conceptual change theoretical perspectives. Based on these views, we then discuss the PJCC and its potential implications for future research. But first we provide a working definition for plausibility judgments, and discuss related constructs that have appeared in other research literatures, to lay the groundwork for the contribution of our perspective.

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