Dissociating intuitive physics from intuitive psychology: Evidence from Williams syndrome

Frederik S. Kamps, Joshua B. Julian, Peter Battaglia, Barbara Landau, Nancy Kanwisher, Daniel D. Dilks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Prior work suggests that our understanding of how things work (“intuitive physics”) and how people work (“intuitive psychology”) are distinct domains of human cognition. Here we directly test the dissociability of these two domains by investigating knowledge of intuitive physics and intuitive psychology in adults with Williams syndrome (WS) – a genetic developmental disorder characterized by severely impaired spatial cognition, but relatively spared social cognition. WS adults and mental-age matched (MA) controls completed an intuitive physics task and an intuitive psychology task. If intuitive physics is a distinct domain (from intuitive psychology), then we should observe differential impairment on the physics task for individuals with WS compared to MA controls. Indeed, adults with WS performed significantly worse on the intuitive physics than the intuitive psychology task, relative to controls. These results support the hypothesis that knowledge of the physical world can be disrupted independently from knowledge of the social world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Naïve physics
  • Naïve psychology
  • Physical reasoning
  • Social perception
  • Williams-Beuren syndrome (WS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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