There is a concern that materialistic thinking—meaning the tendency to attribute a set of matter-like properties to nonmatter concepts—is one of the central barriers that students face in the journey toward understanding scientific concepts. The cross-sectional study presented here used the Sound Concept Inventory Instrument (SCII) (Eshach, , Physical Review Physics Education Research, 10, 010202) to examine how Taiwanese students (N = 717: Grade 7 to undergraduate level) associate the nonmaterial concept of sound with this set of (erroneous) materialistic properties and/or with the (correct) scientific view. Its results show that students in all academic level groups associated sound, at least to some extent, with all of the materialistic properties defined in the instrument. Grades 7–9 evidenced the greatest amount of materialistic thinking, followed by Grade 11, with the lowest levels of materialistic thinking being shown by Grades 10 and 12, as well as university students. We also found that the respondents' confidence in the materialistic view they expressed was high. The results suggest that the extent to which students associate sound with materialistic thinking is not ordered by academic level, but was rather influenced by the immediate relevance of each group's recent curriculum to the topic of sound. This article concludes by examining the results through the lens of several different theories of conceptual change, and by making suggestions, in light of these results, for how the teaching of sound concepts might be improved.
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