Adults’ Familiarity with Everyday Mechanical Objects

Seamon, Elisabeth
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
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This study builds upon previous research by Rozenbilt & Keil (2002). They explored the illusion of explanatory depth, which is a cognitive phenomenon that results in people thinking they know more about how something works than they actually can explain. In this study, we are interested in directly investigating whether being able to see inside an object (to see the working parts) will contribute to participants’ overconfidence in how much they know about how the object works. For example, we predicted that not being able to see the insides of a plastic toy watergun would lead participants to overestimate their knowledge and be overconfident in their ability to explain how the watergun works (compared to seeing a clear watergun). However, analysis showed that the opposite has been supported: that the illusion of explanatory depth was greater in the clear condition. This research was continued to explore whether or not choice influences the level of this illusion. Participants were asked to choose which object they felt most confident in knowing how it worked. It was hypothesized that the illusion of explanatory depth would be even higher with this new variable. Analysis found that the illusion was lower when given a choice of object. Different rating patterns have also been found between genders in both parts.
iv, 34 pages
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