Can infants be "taught" to attend to a new physical variable in an event category? The case of height in covering events

Su hua Wang, Renée Baillargeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

As they observe or produce events, infants identify variables that help them predict outcomes in each category of events. How do infants identify a new variable? An explanation-based learning (EBL) account suggests three essential steps: (1) observing contrastive outcomes relevant to the variable; (2) discovering the conditions associated with these outcomes; and (3) generating an explanation for the condition-outcome regularity discovered. In Experiments 1-3, 9-month-old infants watched events designed to "teach" them the variable height in covering events. After watching these events, designed in accord with the EBL account, the infants detected a height violation in a covering event, three months earlier than they ordinarily would have. In Experiments 4-6, the "teaching" events were modified to remove one of the EBL steps, and the infants no longer detected the height violation. The present findings thus support the EBL account and help specify the processes by which infants acquire their physical knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-326
Number of pages43
JournalCognitive Psychology
Volume56
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008

Keywords

  • Event categories
  • Explanation-based learning
  • Identification of variables
  • Infant cognition
  • Knowledge acquisition
  • Physical reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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