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This study examined the role played by particular intellectual and physical environments on concept formation, focusing on conceptions concerning heat in a group of non-western subjects living in the interior of southern Africa (N. Sotho and Tswana peoples). In addition, these conceptions were examined in three contexts of the subjects' cultural knowledge concerning heat, the prevailing paradigms concerning heat found in early/contemporary scientific theories, and the physical environment in which subjects live. Subjects (N=20) included school-age children and schooled/non-schooled adults. Previous research indicates that European languages such as English tend to reinforce notions of heat as "caloric" because of the historical antecedents of the concept of heat which remain embedded in the language. However, analysis of Interviews-About-Instances and Piagetian clinical interviews suggests that the N. Sotho and Setswana languages appear to involve connotative meanings of heat which are influenced in some way by a powerful metaphor in the Sotho cultural beliefs, and which have a predisposition toward prekinetic views of heat. These results suggests that the Sotho people may be at a relative advantage in learning about heat energy when compared to their western counterparts because their existing knowledge of heat is, in some sense, close to a kinetic view.
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