Abstract for: Bathtub Dynamics Revisited: Disclosing Traces of Déformation Professionelle in Higher Education

It is assumed that more education leads to better understanding of complex systems. Some researchers claim, however, find indications that simple mechanisms like stocks and flows are not well understood even by people who have passed higher education. In this paper, we test people’s understanding of complex systems with the widely studied stock-and-flow (SF) tasks (Booth Sweeney and Sterman 2000). SF tasks assess people’s understanding of the interplay between stocks and flows. We investigate SF failure of domain experts and novices in different knowledge domains. In particular, we compare performance on the original study’s Bathtub task with the square wave pattern (Booth Sweeney and Sterman 2000) with two alternative cover stories from the engineering and business domains on different groups of business and engineering students from different semesters. Further, we show that, while engineering students perform better than business students, with progressing in higher education, students seem to lose the capability of dealing with simple SF tasks from domains other than their field. We thus find hints on déformation professionelle in higher education.