The Nature of Anthropomorphic Mental Images Created by Low and High Spatial Ability Students for Different Astronomical and Microscopic Scientific Topics

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The main purpose of the current study is to investigate the anthropomorphic images created by low and high
spatial learners for different scientific topics. The sample included 79 ninth- and tenth-grade female students in the
Sultanate of Oman. Two instruments were used: the Learners' Anthropomorphic Mental Images (LAMI) instrument, to
determine the average number of anthropomorphic images created by participants, and the Water-Level Task (WLT)
instrument, to classify participants as either high or low spatial ability learners. The results indicate that the generation
of anthropomorphic images seems to be topic-dependent: more anthropomorphic mental images were produced for the
“water transformations” topic than for the “cell division” and “journey into space” topics. In addition, dynamic
interactions triggered more anthropomorphic images than static entities, and low spatial students produced more
anthropomorphic mental images than high spatial students. These results are supported by previous research indicating
that low spatial ability learners tend to add more details to their mental images when they visualize scientific entities and
phenomena than high spatial learners. The generation of these unrealistic details during visualization might hinder
conceptualization. To address this epistemological deficiency, the study recommends that techniques that enhance spatial
ability should be used with low spatial ability learners to help them focus on the spatial arrangements of the phenomenon
under study and eliminate unnecessary details.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-63
Number of pages14
JournalThe International Journal of Science in Society
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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