Inferring epistemic intention in simulated physical microworlds

Stephanie Droop, Neil R Bramley

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


We explore whether people can recognise the epistemic goal of active learners. In a novel online experiment, 110 adults watched screen recordings of other adults (``players'') manipulating objects in a 2D simulated physical microworld. Players had the goal of either identifying the magnet-like force connecting two of the objects, or their relative masses. Observers were asked to identify the learning goal of the player. By drawing from a previously collected dataset of active physical learning interactions and an ideal observer analysis, we manipulated how informative the players' actions are about the target property, and observers' level of access to the players' micro-control actions. We found observers were better at identifying the goals of successful players and of players trying to identify force, while the micro-dynamic evidence improved accuracy on identifying the mass goal. We use mixed methods to explore what cues observers used to make these judgments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 44th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsJennifer Culbertson, Andrew Perfors, Hugh Rabagliati, Veronica Ramenzoni
PublishereScholarship University of California
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jun 2022
Event44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 27 Jul 202230 Jul 2022
Conference number: 44

Publication series

NameProceedings of the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
PublisherCognitive Science Society
ISSN (Electronic)1069-7977


Conference44th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci 2022
Internet address


  • active learning
  • epistemic goal
  • social inference
  • intention
  • intuitive physics


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