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Embodied Cognition in Skateboarding: Produces Superior Performance in Physics Judgment Task of Predicting Fastest Slope

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This study tests if embodied cognition associated with self-movement in skateboarding can provide superior insight in physics problem-solving. Most people are relatively poor at deciphering which of several slopes will

This study tests if embodied cognition associated with self-movement in skateboarding can provide superior insight in physics problem-solving. Most people are relatively poor at deciphering which of several slopes will produce the faster downhill route for a rolling ball. Here, we replicate work by Rohrer and confirm that participants are poor at this task when making predictions on a pen-and-paper test. Our principle hypothesis is that experience skateboarders should perform better than average when asked the equivalent question in the context of selecting the fastest skateboarding route between two different ramps. Our findings confirm that in a timed race, skateboarders are less prone to select a slower, but seemingly shorter, more constant-sloped route. When self-action is coupled to thinking in this way, it appears easier for participants to tap into a gut-level feeling for the overall speed advantage gained by descending more sharply earlier in time. The finding supports a physics pedagogy in which participants consider the problem from the perspective of the descending ball, which allows utilization of embodied cognitive resources that produce superior physics insight. This is the first study to demonstrate that skateboarding ought not to be viewed merely as a renegade hobby, but rather as an activity that holds promise for improving academic performance.

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  • 2011-12