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© 2019 Elsevier Inc. Principles of scientific investigation are often described using hypothetical “if” sentences. The current study explored whether the acquisition of such language is related to earlier understanding of scientific principles, specifically hypothesis testing and control of variables strategy. 98 children 8–9 years of age were tested individually on conditional sentence comprehension, repetition and scientific reasoning. Reasoning ability was tested with groups of children. Children who failed the scientific reasoning tests were re-administered the test/s they failed and grammar tests two years later (age 10–11). Good understanding of hypothetical conditional sentences at age 8–9 predicted showing understanding of hypothesis testing early (age 8–9) rather than late (age 10–11) and predicted passing control of variables strategy test by age 10–11, controlling for non-verbal and verbal reasoning ability. Comprehension of complex conditional sentences might be helping children with understanding the underlying principles of scientific investigation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





46 - 57


Control-of-variables strategy, Hypothesis testing, Grammar, Scientific reasoning, Conditional sentences, Science learning