The study explored whether laypersons correctly tacitly know Galileo’s law of the inclined plane and what the basis of such knowledge could be. Participants predicted the time a ball would take to roll down a slope with factorial combination of ball travel distance and slope angle. The resulting pattern of factorial curves relating the square of predicted time to travel distance for each slope angle was identical to that implied by Galileo’s law, indicating a correct cognitive representation of this law. Intuitive physics research suggests that this cognitive representation may result from memories of past perceptions of objects rolling down a slope. Such a basis and the correct cognitive representation of Galileo’s law led to the hypothesis that Galileo’s law is also perceptually represented correctly. To test this hypothesis, participants were asked to judge the perceived travel time of a ball actually rolling down a slope, with perceived travel distance and perceived slope angle varied in a factorial design. The obtained pattern of factorial curves was equal to that implied by Galileo’s law, indicating that the functional relationships defined in this law were perceptually represented correctly. The results foster the idea that laypersons may tacitly know both linear and nonlinear multiplicative physical laws of the everyday world. As a practical implication, the awareness of this conclusion may help develop more effective methods for teaching physics and for improving human performance in the physical environment.

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