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

Rebecca Lawson, University of Liverpool

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

Memory and Cognition, (2006), 34, 1667-1675.