Shake shake shake!

“Shake shake shake, shake your”— boxes?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Ever shake a box and try to guess what’s inside it? Of course. But how are we able to make reasonable guesses about these complete unknowns?

When we mess around with our environment like this to learn something, it’s called epistemic action.

Sholei Croom, Hanbei Zhou, and Chaz Firestone from Johns Hopkins University wanted to understand epistemic actions better.

Five-hundred participants watched two videos of someone shaking a box. In the videos, the person was EITHER trying to determine the shape OR number of objects inside.

Results? About seventy percent of viewers identified the correct reason for the box shaking! This identification process is complex, but people do it easily.

Researchers hope to continue to understand epistemic actions and incorporate their work into technology. Imagine an A-I robot who knows exactly what you need at the store just by observing you!

Don’t mind me… I’m just… shaking my head….

Reference: Sholei Croom, Hanbei Zhou, Chaz Firestone. Seeing and understanding epistemic actions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2023; 120 (49) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2303162120