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József Nagy: The comprehension of relations

The concept of causal determinism has been undermined in the course of the 20th century. Recent views treat causality as a special case of co-occurrence and necessity (i.e. a consequence which will invariably occur) as a special case of probability. The present paper reports an enterprise with a double aim. (1) To provide a tool for theoretical clarification, a system for the description and classification of relationships is presented. (2) To provide empirical grounding for educational work helping the development of comprehending relations, findings from a large scale survey are discussed. A relation is defined as the relationship of condition F and co-occurring phenomenon V, where every time condition F is present, co-occurring phenomenon V will be probably present. In the traditional terminology, the condition is either necessary and sufficient, or necessary but insufficient. The presence of the co-occurring phenomenon is either certain or probable. The relationship between the condition and the co-occurring phenomenon is either co-occurrence or causality. When it is causality, the condition is a reason and the co-occurring phenomenon is its consequence. Co-occurrences are commutative; causal relations are not. Because the condition, the consequence and the relationship connecting them alike can be one of two alternatives, 23=8 relation types are possible. First these basic relations are introduced; then simple and complex relations are characterised; and finally real, potential and fictitious relations are distinguished. Issues in the comprehension of relations are discussed drawing on recent findings in psychology and especially the PDP model. The hereditary foundations of relation comprehension (relation perception) are identified and a model is drawn to characterise their development into explicit perceptual and concept-level relation comprehension, i.e. relation discovery (rule induction), rule formulation and the comprehension of relations discovered by earlier generations. The developmental model is constructed on the basis of the findings of empirical research on the cognitive ability of comprehending relations. A diagnostic instrument was developed by the author for the assessment of this ability and administered to a nationally representative sample of approximately 20,000 8-16-year-olds. The results are discussed in terms of their relevance and potential for facilitating the developmental processes revealed.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 100. Number 2. 141-185. (2000)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Nagy József, Szegedi Tudományegyetem, Pedagógiai Tanszék, H-6722 Szeged, Petőfi S. sgt. 30-34.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia