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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Lawson.

Additional information

This research was supported by Grant RES-000-27-0162 from the Economic and Social Research Council.

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Lawson, R. The science of cycology: Failures to understand how everyday objects work. Memory & Cognition 34, 1667–1675 (2006). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03195929

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Keywords

  • Conceptual Knowledge
  • Front Wheel
  • Everyday Object
  • Causal Information
  • Apply Cognitive Psychology