Intuitions about magic track the development of intuitive physics

Casey Lewry, Kaley Curtis, Nadya Vasilyeva, Fei Xu, Thomas L. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Many successful magic tricks violate our assumptions about how physical objects behave, but some magic tricks are better than others. We examined whether the interest adults express in a magic trick is predicted by the age at which infants first respond to violation of the corresponding physical principle. In Experiment 1, adults (N = 319) rated their interest in magic tricks mimicking stimuli from violation-of-expectation experiments with infants. We found a clear correlation between how interesting a trick is and the age at which infants demonstrate a sensitivity to its underlying principle. In a second experiment (N = 350), we replicated this finding and also used three additional tricks for which there is no established age of acquisition to predict the age at which those physical principles might be acquired. A third experiment (N = 368) replicated these findings measuring adults' surprise at physical violations rather than their interest in magic tricks. Our results suggest that adults' intuitions reflect the development of physical knowledge and show how magic can reveal our expectations about the physical world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104762
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Intuitive physics
  • Magic
  • Ontological commitments
  • Violation-of-expectation


Dive into the research topics of 'Intuitions about magic track the development of intuitive physics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this