Poster C141, Sunday, March 26, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Training Spatial Thinking in the High School Classroom Impacts Cognitive and Neural Correlates of Verbal Relational Reasoning
Emily Peterson1,2, Robert Kolvoord1, David Kraemer3, Adam Weinberger2, David Uttal4, Dan Goldman2, Adam Green2; 1James Madison University, 2Georgetown University, 3Dartmouth College, 4Northwestern University
Mental modeling (i.e., using spatial cognitive resources to represent the relations between pieces of information) has been implicated as a thinking tool that supports relational reasoning. Mental models are hypothesized to support reasoning not only when relations are explicitly spatial (e.g., to the left of), but also for non-spatial relations (e.g., smarter than). The present study examined whether students who learn spatial thinking skills within a year-long high school course show improved performance and increased deployment of spatial brain resources during relational reasoning with spatial and non-spatial content. Participants (Ntotal=200, NMRI=34) completed a deductive relational reasoning task (linear syllogisms) in which they determined the validity of a conclusion based on a series of premise statements. Spatial ability was measured in fMRI and non-scanning cohorts using a Mental Rotation Task and an Embedded Figures Task before and after the school year. Analyses indicated that individual differences in spatial abilities predicted performance on spatial as well as non-spatial relational reasoning, even when controlling for general academic ability. Critically, relative to matched controls, students who received spatial education demonstrated greater change in recruitment of posterior parietal cortex, a brain region widely implicated in spatial thinking. Findings provide support for the mental models theory of relational reasoning, and suggest that individual differences in spatial ability are important for reasoning, even when reasoning involves non-spatial relations presented in a verbal modality. Moreover, results suggest that the benefits of training spatial thinking through classroom-based interventions may impact students’ ability to use mental models during relational reasoning.
Topic Area: THINKING: Reasoning