If you are in a cold room in a hurry to get warm will

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If you are in a cold room, in a hurry to get warm, will the room heat more quickly if you turn the thermostat to its maximum setting? Or if you want the oven to reach its working temperature faster, should you turn the temperature dial all the way to maximum, then turn it down once the desired temperature is reached? Or to cool a room most quickly, should you set the air conditioner thermostat to its lowest temperature setting? If you think that the room or oven will cool or heat faster if the thermostat is turned all the way to the maximum setting, you are wrong you hold an erroneous folk theory of the heating and cooling system. One commonly held folk theory of the working of a thermostat is that it is like a valve: the thermostat controls how much heat (or cold) comes out of the device. Hence, to heat or cool something most quickly, set the thermostat so that the device is on maximum. The theory is reasonable, and there exist devices that operate like this, but neither the heating or cooling equipment for a home nor the heating element of a traditional oven is one of them. In most homes, the thermostat is just an on-off switch. Moreover, most heating and cooling devices are either fully on or fully off: all or nothing, with no in-between states. As a result, the thermostat turns the heater, oven, or air conditioner completely on, at full power, until the temperature setting on the thermostat is reached. Then it turns the unit completely off. Setting the thermostat at one extreme cannot affect how long it takes to reach the desired temperature. Worse, because this bypasses the automatic shutoff when the desired temperature is reached, setting it at the extremes invariably means that the temperature overshoots the target. If people were uncomfortably cold or hot before, they will become uncomfortable in the other direction, wasting considerable energy in the process. But how are you to know? What information helps you understand how the thermostat works? The design problem with the refrigerator is that there are no aids to understanding, no way of two: The Psychology of Everyday Actions 59 forming the correct conceptual model. In fact, the information provided misleads people into forming the wrong, quite inappropriate model. The real point of these examples is not that some people have erroneous beliefs; it is that everyone forms stories (conceptual models) to explain what they have observed. In the absence of external information, people can let their imagination run free as long as the conceptual models they develop account for the facts as they perceive them. As a result, people use their thermostats inappropriately, causing themselves unnecessary effort, and often resulting in large temperature swings, thus wasting energy, which is both a needless expense and bad for the environment. (Later in this chapter, page 69, I provide an example of a thermostat that does provide a useful conceptual model.) Blaming the Wrong Things People try to find causes for events. They tend to assign a causal relation whenever two things occur in succession. If some unexpected
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