Confusion

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Definition

Confusion is an epistemic emotion experienced by a learner based on a belief that the learner's understanding is incomplete. There are a few different kinds of confusion that learners experience.

Types of confusion

Object-level contradictions

  • Apparent internal contradiction: The learner is aware of holding two beliefs that seem to contradict one another.
  • Apparent internal/external contradiction: Current external information available to the learner, such as what's happening in a real-world situation, or what an authority figure says, contradicts the learner's internal model.
  • Contradiction between external sources: Two external sources of information -- whether real-world data or reliable sources -- seem to contradict one another.

Meta-level contradictions

  • Non-obvious steps that should be obvious: A learner may experience confusion when an explanation makes a non-obvious step, even though in the context, all steps should be obvious. We can think of this as an internal/external contradiction, albeit at the meta level.

Relation with misconceptions

Confusion is closely related to misconceptions but differs. A misconception is a wrong concept that a learner holds.

Misconceptions may lead to confusion, but they don't have to if the learner is never confronted with the contradictory consequences of the misconception.

Misconceptions are not the only source of confusion; cognitive errors on the learner's part, or even errors in external information, can lead to confusion.