Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Who Killed the Princes? 500-Year-Old Mystery Provides Insight into Human Reasoning

Academic journal article Human Ecology Forum

Who Killed the Princes? 500-Year-Old Mystery Provides Insight into Human Reasoning

Article excerpt

Did England's King Richard III arrange for the murder of his two young nephews, or did his successor, King Henry VII, rewrite history to cover up his own responsibility for the crimes? Elizabeth Allen '95 used this fifteenth-century mystery in a research project that studied the way anomalous information and the availability of alternative theories help determine whether individuals accept or reject certain conclusions about an event.

"I first started thinking about research during my sophomore year," says Allen, who conducted her project as part of the senior honors program. "I took a cognitive development course with Professor Barbara Koslowski. She mentioned that she was looking for some research assistants, so I began helping her with interviews and learning about coding data."

After spending the next semester in the college's Urban Semester Program in New York City, Allen returned to campus and applied to the honors program, which requires a research project and a thesis based on the project. Her next step was to find a subject.

"I had been interested in thinking and reasoning and the creative process," she says. "That led to an interest in how creative thought is used in scientific thinking and how individuals deal with anomalies in reaction to new theories."

In her study, Allen presented participants with what she calls a "target account" of the mystery of the murdered princes - that Richard was indeed the perpetrator - and provided them with theories as to why this was so.

Then she divided her participants into four groups to see if she could influence their thinking by introducing conflicting information or an alternative theory. She presented one group with anomalies to the original theory, suggesting several reasons Richard might not have been guilty. …

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