Trobriand children balancing on a see-saw.
Mechanical knowledge significantly predates any systematic theoretical treatment of mechanics. The most basic knowledge presupposed by mechanics is based on experiences acquired almost universally in any culture by human activities. It includes the perception of material bodies and their relative permanence, their impenetrability, their mechanical qualities, and their physical behavior. The outcome is an "intuitive mechanical knowledge" embedded in a qualitative physics, which is built up in ontogenesis and guides human activities related to our physical environment.
Besides the survey of the relevant research on intuitive physics and its development in psychology, anthropology and artificial intelligence, the project includes field research both in Germany and on the Trobriand Islands with the aim to analyze the ontogenetic development of intuitive conceptions of force, motion, weight, and density and in order to examine which aspects of intuitive physical thinking and its development reflect universal cognitive structures.