“There Must Be a Cat Nearby”: Kindergarteners’ Reasoning About Action at an Attentional Distance

  •  S. Lynneth Solis    
  •  Tina A. Grotzer    
  •  Kaley N. Curtis    


Action at a distance describes causal relationships in which causes and effects act at a distance. Many concepts in life and in science involve action at a distance, such as a remote control activating a television or magnets repelling each other without touching. Some forms occur within the same attentional frame, such as two magnets on a table, making it possible to observe the covariation relationships between them. Others occur at an attentional distance, obscured by space or other variables that make it difficult to perceive covariation. The term action at an attentional distance (A@AD) underscores this distinction (Grotzer & Solis, 2015). Previous research demonstrated that elementary students experience difficulties in interpreting A@AD but can reason about it through mediating mechanisms. The present study extended this work to characterize kindergarteners’ reasoning about A@AD within familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Twenty-five kindergarteners participated in two interview sessions where they were presented with hypothetical scenarios and asked to reason about the possibility of A@AD. Results revealed that in certain cases young students accepted and described A@AD, and this was informed by their familiarity with the context, availability of possible explanatory mechanisms, access to covariation information, and attention to their own interventions.

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