Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Chronically curious モ..

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jigsaw, Part 3: Baillargeon

Renee Baillargeon has the most amazing memory of anyone I've met. She remembered me from a brief meeting nearly 5 years ago, when I was just starting my whole Ph.D. thing with Jacques. This Cognitive Jigsaw is about how some ideas that I'd heard about can be put together. So far, I've gotten up to [[Sperber+Csibra]+Aslin]. Now for Renee. Anyhow, she gave a very clear picture of how she sees physical reasoning develop in infancy. The basic idea is that there is core knowledge, which is used to interpret a scene. The scene is built out of Basic Information (is that a tube or a cylinder? Is something inside something or behind it?) and Variable Information (height of an occluder, the colour of an occluded object). Variable Information is the tricky bit. Essentially, it seems that there are innate biases (Basic Information), and then the baby has to learn that some other sources of information (like height, width, colour, transparency) also need to be taken into account. The really funny thing is that, imagine a kid has figured out that a tall object cannot be out-of -sight when it is placed inside a shorter cylinder (this happens around 7.5 months of age). Then, at this stage, the kid will NOT have figured out that the same is true also for tubes! {In the figure, you see a tall-container and a short-container event, where a container is a cylinder. Click the image for the article}. Renee et al interpret these findings to say that different events are encoded differently, and figuring one out expands to all instances of the same event, but not to different events. So, if the kid figures out containment in cylinders, it will know containment of any kind of object in any kind of container, thus generalizing over cylinders, but will NOT generalize to tubes, which it will represent as a separate event in it's wee mind. So the representation in the kids mind is something like:
{Contains(Cylinderi, Objectj} ...1
..abstracting over different cylinders and different objects in different conditions. Under these conditions (and not necessarily any other), the child will make an inference of the kind
[If(IsShorter(Cylinderi,Objectj)) Then IsVisible(Objectj) Else IsInvisible(Objectj)] ...2
...if you get my drift.. :) The point was that {Contains(Cylinderi, Objectj} is not the same as {Contains(Tubei, Objectj}. So, while the infant might apply rules like 2 to the former, it might not to the latter. So what does this have to do? Well, to get to that, one more piece is needed: at an age when an infant will NOT attend to height in a tube, it can be made to do so by somehow indicating that height is the variable of importance, so please, dear baby, apply core-knowledge to the height variable as well. Well, from what we know from the previous posts, adult-infant interactions themselves carry an assumption about their relevance; it's entirely plausible that under the appropriate situation, the baby can be made to share the point of view of the adult. How?

SciFi experiment

If the experimenter shows surprise.. would the kid pick that up?

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