If you bought your eleven plus child an educational science kit for Christmas, and it is still languishing unused, you could try this little experiment. Create a circuit where there are two light switches – and each one can only be in one of two positions. There is also an electric bulb.
If you are a brave and forward thinking parent you will have the confidence to try this will all the members of your family, the task is to tell, on the basis of turning one switch only, what turns the light on.
The light is off. Your eleven plus child turns one switch and the light comes on.
The light is on. The switch is moved and the light goes off.
The light is on. When the switch is moved nothing happens.
The light is off. When the switch is moved nothing happens.
Whichever way the problem is presented everyone in the family will find that they need to follow a similar pattern of steps.
In the first case the only thing that needs to be understood which position and which switch was used. The remaining trials require more than one thing to be remembered. Take Trial Four where nothing happens.
The present position has to be rejected,
The original position of the switch has to be rejected.
The present position of the switch that has not been turned has to be rejected,
The alternative position of the switch that has not been turned has to be the one that turn the light on.
The experiment was first set up by J. Huttenlocher who was in part looking at how few steps were needed to solve the problem It was found that some six year old children were just as good as twelve year old children.
This seems to suggest, but this could be a rather wild hypothesis, that some six year old children could possibly solve some problems that some eleven plus candidates find difficult. Perhaps the parallel can be drawn out a little further – some eleven plus children may be able to solve some problems with fewer steps than their parents. (If any one has any experience of this happening please let me know!)