Theory-testing can only inform scientific inquiry when the prediction of test outcome is based upon the current theory (theory-prediction consistency). This investigation explores children's theory-prediction consistency in a computer-mediated task in which multiple opportunities were provided to predict outcomes and review theories. An initial correlation study revealed that theory-prediction consistency was associated with children's success when attempting to identify causation. The second study investigated the effect of goal and a simple intervention upon children's theory-prediction consistency. The type of goal appeared to have no effect but the intervention, which encouraged the children to use their theory to make predictions, significantly improved their ability to identify cause. Interestingly, it also improved other aspects of their performance-such as encouraging more reflection upon the outcomes of tests. The results imply that poor theory-prediction consistency may be related to difficulties in identifying the type of problem being presented.
Howard-Jones, P., Joiner, R., & Bomford, J. (2006). Thinking with a theory: Theory-prediction consistency and young children's identification of causality. Instructional Science, 34(2), 159-188. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11251-005-4056-3