Intuitive Physics

Thanks to Lee for the following:

Intuitive Physics


“In a review of related scientific literature from the past 30 years, vanMarle and Susan Hespos of Northwestern University found that the evidence for intuitive physics occurs in infants as young as two months — the earliest age at which testing can occur. At that age, infants show an understanding that unsupported objects will fall and that hidden objects do not cease to exist. Scientific testing also has shown that by five months, infants have an expectation that non-cohesive substances like sand or water are not solid. In a previous publication, vanMarle found that children as young as 10 months consistently choose larger amounts when presented with two different amounts of food substance.

“We believe that infants are born with the ability to form expectations and they use these expectations basically to predict the future,” vanMarle said. “Intuitive physics include skills that adults use all the time. For example, when a glass of milk falls off the table, a person might try to catch the cup, but they are not likely to try to catch the milk that spills out. The person doesn’t have to consciously think about what to do because the brain processes the information and the person simply reacts. The majority of an adult’s everyday interactions with the world are automatic, and we believe infants have the same ability to form expectations, predicting the behavior of objects and substances with which they interact.”

This same intuitive physics is demonstrated in the capacity of a dog chasing another dog in a game, to predict where to intersect that dog along the arc on which it’s running.

Emotion is the physical embodiment of the laws of nature. This is adaptive because if the animal mind is organized around the laws of nature, it can most readily adapt to the processes by which nature changes. It can “predict” where energy is going to be. This is the fundamental problem in evolution, not survival and reproduction. Science is  beginning to uncover the existence of physics in the child’s mind, but it becomes immediately revealed when observing animals and learning not to project human thoughts into what they are doing. We then begin to see complex social and learned behavior proceeding in accord with the same laws of nature by which nature itself is organized.

Published February 3, 2012 by Kevin Behan
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