Mind & Society

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 27–48 | Cite as

Flying bicycles: How the Wright brothers invented the airplane

  • Philip N. Johnson-Laird


This paper explores the ways in which Wilbur and Orville Wright thought as they tackled the problem of designing and constructing a heavier-than-air craft that would fly under its own power and under their control. It argues that their use of analogy and their use of knowledge in diagnostic reasoning lies outside the scope of current psychological theories and their computer implementations. They used analogies based on mental models of one system, such as the wings, to help them to develop theories of another system, such as the propellers. They were also skilled reasoners, who were adept at finding counterexamples to arguments.


Airplanes Analogy Abduction Deduction Explanation Induction Mental models Reasoning 


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Copyright information

© Fondazione Rosselli 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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