Refutations in science texts lead to hypercorrection of misconceptions held with high confidence

van Loon, Mariëtte H.; Dunlosky, John; van Gog, Tamara; van Merriënboer, Jeroen J. G.; de Bruin, Anique B. H. (2015). Refutations in science texts lead to hypercorrection of misconceptions held with high confidence. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 42, pp. 39-48. Elsevier 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2015.04.003

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Misconceptions about science are often not corrected during study when they are held with high confidence. However, when corrective feedback co-activates a misconception together with the correct conception, this feedback may surprise the learner and draw attention, especially when the misconceptions are held with high confidence. Therefore, high-confidence misconceptions might be more likely to be corrected than low-confidence misconceptions. The present study investigates whether this hypercorrection effect occurs when students read science texts. Effects of two text formats were compared: Standard texts that presented factual information, and refutation texts that explicitly addressed misconceptions and refuted them before presenting factual information. Eighth grade adolescents (N = 114) took a pre-reading test that included 16 common misconceptions about science concepts, rated their confidence in correctness of their response to the pre-reading questions, read 16 texts about the science concepts, and finally took a post-test which included both true/false and open-ended test questions. Analyses of post-test responses show that reading refutation texts causes hypercorrection: Learners more often corrected high-confidence misconceptions after reading refutation texts than after reading standard texts, whereas low-confidence misconceptions did not benefit from reading refutation texts. These outcomes suggest that people are more surprised when they find out a confidently held misconception is incorrect, which may encourage them to pay more attention to the feedback and the refutation. Moreover, correction of high-confidence misconceptions was more apparent on the true/false test responses than on the open-ended test, suggesting that additional interventions may be needed to improve learners' accommodation of the correct information.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

Graduate School:

Swiss Graduate School for Cognition, Learning and Memory (SGS-CLM)

UniBE Contributor:

van Loon, Mariëtte Henrica


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Jennifer Ruth Sprenger

Date Deposited:

14 Jun 2018 12:18

Last Modified:

29 Oct 2019 12:44

Publisher DOI:





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