level, acquired from rich everyday experience with objects that can be drawn on as resources in physics teaching.
Considerable research is still needed to map out the ways in which infant expectations about physical objects transition into the expectations and beliefs held by preschoolers and elementary schoolchildren. However those studies turn out, however, it is clear that children entering elementary school should not be characterized as merely having a batch of misconceptions. The many ways in which they do correctly sense some of the behaviors of simple mechanical objects should be central to their teaching and learning of science.
People, as well as many other organisms, behave in ways that are immediately interpreted in terms of their having goals, desires, and beliefs that help to explain their actions. Moreover, their actions have a different quality from those of the inanimate world (Spelke, Phillips, and Woodward, 1995). People can easily act on each other at a distance. A facial expression, a comment, or a gesture can cause another agent to spring into action in ways that are directly related to that first event, even though it may be spatially quite distinct. Causes have no obvious proportionality to their effects. A whisper might cause an eruption of action, while a shout may cause inhibition of action. In a different situation, the opposite may occur. Animate things can change their direction midcourse, while simple objects require an external force to change their trajectories. There are patterns of contingency between people that are quite distinctive, so that one person tends to respond to the actions of the other after a characteristic temporal delay (Scassellati and Gold, in press).
The domain of people (and other intentional agents) and their actions corresponds roughly to the research areas of psychology and cognitive science. Although psychology and cognitive science are not typically areas of science instruction in the elementary school, much of the scholarship in those fields arises from experimental research very much in the tradition of the biological and physical sciences.The contrast between simple mechanical objects and intentional agents is one of the most robust and earliest emerging cognitive distinctions in development. Children’s emerging understanding of psychology may be a critical component that they bring to the learning of science in elementary school. For example, understanding and engaging with the beliefs and ideas of other people play an important role in science discourse.
Infants are quite sensitive to the differences in the behavior of people (or other entities considered to be intentional) and inanimate solid objects. They have different expectations about the focus or location of future ac-