Faculty Publications

Title

Are conceptions of motion based on a naive theory or on prototypes?

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Cognition

Volume

29

Issue

3

First Page

251

Last Page

275

Abstract

Individuals untutored in physics sometimes answer questions about motion in ways that are internally consistent but highly incompatible with accepted physical theory; this might mean that they have formulated personal "naive" theories of motion from which they deduce answers to problems. However, interviews with subjects solving motion problems showed that problem solution is subjectively experienced as the result of a mental enactment of the situation, rather than as a deduction from a theory. Variations in the enactment (produced by variations in the portrayal of the problem situation) frequently led to changes in response, indicating that enactment is functionally (as well as subjectively) the source of responses. The source of the enactment itself appeared to be a number of mutually inconsistent, relatively specific prototypes which capture typical aspects of motion, rather than a theory composed of general principles. Subjects solved problems about unfamiliar situations for which personal experience was insufficient by developing analogies to more familiar situations. Although individuals appear to develop knowledge which qualifies as a "theory" of motion, the results do not support the view that these theories are composed of general principles like those of scientific theories. © 1988.

Original Publication Date

1-1-1988

DOI of published version

10.1016/0010-0277(88)90026-1

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