Naïve Physics – the wrong theory?


In this paper we examine the idea of a "naïve physics" in humans solving physics problems. This invokes the idea that people have a theory of motion in their heads that is non- Newtonian, and hence leads to systematic errors on these problems. We are able to show that, by selecting our problems carefully, it is possible to obtain answers that are consistent with this naïve physics and inconsistent with it; suggesting that it is not used to solve these problems but sometimes offered as post-hoc justification for the answers given. We offer evidence that the answers given owe more to past experience than any theory, and that a theory that postulates extrapolation on the basis of associative memory can give a good account of our results.

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