Inducing and Tracking Confusion with Contradictions during Critical Thinking and Scientific Reasoning


Blair Lehman, Sidney K. D'Mello, Amber Strain, Melissa Gross, Allyson Dobbins, Patricia Wallace, Keith Millis and Arthur C. Graesser

Paper type: 
Full paper
9. 15:30-16:30, Thursday 30 June


Cognitive disequilibrium and its affiliated affective state of confusion have been found to be beneficial to learning due to the effortful cognitive activities that accompany their experience. Although confusion naturally occurs during learning, it can be induced and scaffolded to increase learning opportunities. We addressed the possibility of induction in a study where learners engaged in trialogues on critical thinking and scientific reasoning topics with animated tutor and student agents. Confusion was induced by staging disagreements and contradictions between the animated agents, and the (human) learners were invited to provide their opinions. Self-reports of confusion and learner responses to embedded forced-choice questions indicated that the contradictions were successful at inducing confusion in the minds of the learners. The contradictions also resulted in enhanced learning gains under certain conditions.


Confusion, cognitive disequilibrium, contradiction, affect, tutoring, intelligent tutoring systems, learning.