Science, beliefs or everyday experience?
The EEG cap cannot read thoughts, despite the sixth graders having their doubts to the contrary. The cap has conducting wires and electrodes that sit on the scalp tightly, thanks to a gel-like substance. A curve then appears on the computer screen, illustrating the pupil’s neurocognitive processes.
“Pupils are presented with statements about various themes, such as climate change, the clothing industry and health. They are given three answers to choose from: one based on science, one based on beliefs and one based on everyday experience and emotions,” Research Assistant Jenni Bäckman explains.
When pupils think about their answers, researchers get neurological data on what is happening in their brain. Pupils are also asked to verbalise their thoughts and to justify their answers.
“The neurological data gets sent to the University of Helsinki for analysis, while we teacher educators here at the University of Eastern Finland will analyse children’s verbal answers,” Havu-Nuutinen says.
Previously, similar research has only been conducted in adults, so this is the first time children's neurocognitive processes are being studied in the context of statements presented to them.
Laboratory technology strengthens research
Mira Kastinen is not anxious about participating in the study or responding to the statements because, according to friends who’ve already participated, the statements are “easy questions of opinion”.
Research assistants Iiris Kangasniemi and Andreas Fischer – who also studies in an international Master’s degree programme –, are helping Mira get prepared for the study. He adjusts the EEG cap for each pupil and reassures those who are nervous about the situation.
“I’m surprised by how well pupils understand English. Most of them also answer my questions very fluently.”
Besides working as a research assistant, Fischer is also writing a Master’s thesis in the FINSCI project.
The instruments used for neurological measurements are part of the logopedics laboratory at the University of Eastern Finland. Havu-Nuutinen is grateful for the opportunity to borrow the modern equipment for research in educational sciences, too.
“The new laboratory has proven invaluable for us in this project. Thanks to having access to the latest technology, we’ve also been able to strengthen our collaboration in research into cognitive neuropsychology,” she says, pleased.