Memory & Cognition

, Volume 34, Issue 8, pp 1667–1675

The science of cycology: Failures to understand how everyday objects work



When their understanding of the basics of bicycle design was assessed objectively, people were found to make frequent and serious mistakes, such as believing that the chain went around the front wheel as well as the back wheel. Errors were reduced but not eliminated for bicycle experts, for men more than women, and for people who were shown a real bicycle as they were tested. The results demonstrate that most people’s conceptual understanding of this familiar, everyday object is sketchy and shallow, even for information that is frequently encountered and easily perceived. This evidence of a minimal and even inaccurate causal understanding is inconsistent with that of strong versions of explanation-based (or theory-based) theories of categorization.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolEngland

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