JHI Home
About Us
Research Communities
Fellowships & Calls for Funding
Working Groups
Humanities At UofT
Events and Exhibitions

When children are better (or, at least, more open-minded) theorists than adults

When children are better (or, at least, more open-minded) theorists than adults
170 St. George Street, JHB Room 100
Time: Mar 24th, 3:00 pm End: Mar 24th, 5:00 pm
Interest Categories: Philosophy (UTSC), Philosophy (UTM), Philosophy (FAS), History & Philosophy of Science & Technology (FAS), Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in (OISE/UT), Education, Critical Theory, 2000-
Lecture by Alison Gopnik, UC Berkeley

The Department of Philosophy presents

Edwin Alexander Lecture on Philosophical Aspects of Aphasia

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? I will present several studies showing that preschoolers can learn abstract higher-order principles from data. In each case, younger learners were actually better at inferring unusual or unlikely principles than older learners. I relate 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. Our 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.

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD. from Oxford University. She is an internationally recognized leader in the study of children's learning and development and was the first to argue that children's minds could help us understand deep philosophical questions. She is a columnist (every other week) for The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of over 100 journal articles and several books including "Words, thoughts and theories" (coauthored with Andrew Meltzoff), MIT Press, 1997, and the bestselling and critically acclaimed popular books "The Scientist in the Crib" (coauthored with Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl) William Morrow, 1999, and "The Philosophical Baby; What children's minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life" Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009. She has also written widely about cognitive science and psychology for Science, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, New Scientist and Slate, among others. And she has frequently appeared on TV and radio including "The Charlie Rose Show" and "The Colbert Report".

This event is free and open to all. Registration is not required. Reception to follow in room 418.

For further information, please contact the Department of Philosophy at 416-978-3311.



About JHI | Contact JHI | UofT | Follow us on Twitter twitter icon

Copyright © 2011-2014 University of Toronto. Jackman Humanities Institute. All Rights Reserved.
Tel: (416) 978-7415 Fax: (416) 946-7434, 170 St. George Street, Tenth Floor, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5R 2M8