Purpose-Based Thinking Affects Belief in the Existence of Everyday Objects

Jacob W. Dink, Lance J. Rips

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

When we reason about the physical world, we don't just think about physical facts. For example, in judging why an object exists, or belongs to a particular category, we often appeal to intentions, functions, and purpose (e.g., “knives exist for cutting”). Such “teleological” thinking is common, but intuitively it has limits: For example, whether an object exists appears to depend only on the objective physical state of the world. In contrast, we present evidence that intentions can influence people's judgments of whether an everyday object exists. Participants read stories about an object being disassembled. Controlling for the physical status of the object, people's judgments about whether the object existed were sensitive to the purpose guiding the disassembly. These results serve as a case study in the psychological power of intentions: Apparently straightforward judgments about the physical world can be shaped by the state of the mental-world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014
PublisherThe Cognitive Science Society
Pages415-420
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780991196708
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014 - Quebec City, Canada
Duration: Jul 23 2014Jul 26 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014

Conference

Conference36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, CogSci 2014
Country/TerritoryCanada
CityQuebec City
Period7/23/147/26/14

Keywords

  • intentions
  • object concepts
  • ontology
  • physical reasoning
  • singular concepts
  • teleological thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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