The study of intuitive physics, or naive physics, in child development, studies the attempt of a child’s brain to organise, categorise and understand the physical concepts with which they come in contact, in their environments [1]. A child’s brain takes cues from each of their senses to form a coherent view of the world around them. This inevitably leads to them developing an intuition for some classical mechanical concepts with which we are all familiar. One example of this is gravity, an object that goes up will come down. Another is tension: It seems intuitive that a stretched elastic band will bounce back sharply. 

An interesting experiment is the ‘visual cliff’ psychology experiment, as seen in figure 1. This experiment tests babies’ intuition for the end of a path simulated by plexiglass, and their trust of the reaction forces of the plexiglass as the surface upon which they are crawling transitions.[2]  


Seth Lloyd is a tenured professor at MIT argues the fact that very young children may possess qualities that would make understanding quantum mechanics easier – namely their lack of object permanence. It is Piaget’s theory in psychology that infants gradually learn that objects continue to exist even when they are no longer in view [3]. It is believed that at 4 months old an infant can express to you that during peek a boo, that you did not simply disappear when going out of view. [4]


When studying modern physical concepts, for example quantum mechanics, you must throw your intuition out the window in some sense. One example of a counterintuitive concept in quantum mechanics is quantum tunnelling. This means the passing of objects through seemingly impenetrable barriers [5]. We have an intuition for impenetrable barriers, we know that if we walked into a wall we would not spring out the other side of the wall. When studying quantum mechanics, you must leave these preformed ideas at the door, which can be a difficult task in itself. 


We also know that if someone plays peek-a-boo with us that they are just behind their hands, their body has not spontaneously detached itself from their hands, and passed through the walls, out of the room. However, babies under the age of 4 months do not arrive with these notions pre-established. Babies would not have the trouble that is caused by the years of viewing classical physics like us adults do. So in this one sense, babies would have less trouble grasping concepts in quantum mechanics. 








0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply