Colloquium: When Children are Better (or, at Least, More Open-Minded) Theorists Than Adults: Theory Formation, Causal models, and the Evolution of Learning
- Date: Apr 20, 2017
- Time: 10:00 AM (Local Time Germany)
- Speaker: Prof. Alison Gopnik
- Location: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin
- Room: Small Conference Room
- Host: MPRG iSearch
- Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Alison Gopnik, University of California, Berkeley
When Children are Better (or, at Least, More Open-Minded) Theorists Than Adults: Theory Formation, Causal models, and the Evolution of Learning
In the past 15 years we’ve discovered that even young children are adept at inferring causal structure from statistical patterns. But can they also learn more abstract theoretical principles? And are there differences in the ways that younger children, older children and adults learn? Alison Gopnik will present several studies showing that preschoolers can learn abstract higher-order principles from data, as well as studies of adolescents, low SES American children, and Peruvian children on the same tasks. In each case, younger learners were actually better at inferring unusual or unlikely principles than older learners. She relates this to computational ideas about search and sampling, to evolutionary ideas about human life history, and to neuroscience findings about the negative effects of frontal control on wide exploration, and the advantages of earlier neural architectures for wide-ranging learning. The hypothesis is that childhood is evolution’s way of performing simulated annealing. Our distinctively long human childhood allows a period of broad “high-temperature” hypothesis search.
The colloquium is open to the public.