Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Cognitive Science, Number 10, p.75-90 (1986)
People routinely develop their own theories to explain the world around them. These theories can be useful even when they contradict conventional technical wisdom. Based on in-depth interviews about home heating and thermostat setting behavior, the present study presents two theories people use to understand and adjust their thermostats. The two theories are here called the feedback theory and the valve theory. The valve theory is inconsistent with engineering knowledge, but is estimated to be held by 25% to 50% of Americans. Predictions of each of the theories are compared with the operations normally performed in home heat control. This comparison suggests that the valve theory may be highly functional in normal day-to-day use. Further data is needed on the ways this theory guides behavior in natural environments.