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Orekhova, E. ISSN x. Papageorgiou, Kostas A. Leonard, H. Elsabbagh, M. Hudry, K. This example is discussed in detail below. Some additional illustrative examples of the development of implicit theories are provided in Box Infants first have a relatively simple theory of mind. They are aware of some basic characteristics: what people are looking at is a sign of what they are paying attention to; people act intentionally and are goal directed; people have positive and negative feelings in response to things around them; and people have different perceptions, goals, and feelings.
Children add to this mental map as their awareness grows. From infancy on, developing. Even babies hold some fundamental principles about how objects move about in space and time Baillargeon et al. For example, babies are surprised as measured by their increased looking time if an object in one location pops up in another location when they did not see it traverse the space between. Even babies seem capable of intuitively understanding something that approximates addition and subtraction, and they are surprised when something counter to these principles occurs Wynn, a.
For example, when babies witness one object that is then screened from view and they see that another object is placed behind the screen, they are surprised when the screen is lowered if there is still only one object there. There has been a recent explosion of research on quantitative abilities of infants and toddlers.
These very early developing capacities in these two numerical systems lay the foundation for later mathematical abilities that will be taught explicitly to children. Young children also understand some fundamental characteristics of living things. They distinguish between living and nonliving things; they know living things grow and inanimate objects do not; they know sick or injured people can heal while broken objects do not repair themselves; they attribute life, growth, and biological processes to some sort of vital force or energy, and they know that food is necessary to nourish this vital force Inagaki and Hatano, Infants also detect when an adult makes eye contact, speaks in an infant-directed.
In contrast, babies who see an inanimate rod move on the same trajectory toward an object are surprised if the rod changes its trajectory to pursue the object but not if it continues on the old trajectory toward a new object. An example of building on intuitive understanding to develop a more elaborate understanding of biology comes from a study on teaching preschool through early elementary school children about nutrition.
Children at this age have an understanding that people need food to survive, but their implicit theory provides no causal mechanism for how food accomplishes its vital functions. The approach in this study was to move beyond very simplified, nonexplanatory teaching material and instead to teach children in age-appropriate ways that different foods contain different nutrients that are too small to see, which in turn have different functions that are required to support diverse biological processes.
The core concepts and causal principles provided a coherent conceptual framework that explains why it is important to eat a variety of healthy foods. Children became able to explain why it is not healthy to eat only broccoli; they could pick a healthier snack based on the variety of foods included; they understood why people need blood to carry nutrients to all parts of the body.
Moreover, when assessed at snack time, the children who received this intuitive theory-based training increased their vegetable consumption Gripshover and Markman, In another example of intentionally contributing to a more elaborate biological theory for children at the older end of the birth-to-8 age range, third- and fourth-grade students during the severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS epidemic in Hong Kong increased their hand-washing behaviors after receiving lessons that germs are living things that thrive under some circumstances and die in others, and that reproduce quickly under some conditions and very slowly or not at all in others.
It is well established that babies and young children imitate the actions of others. Children as young as 14 to 18 months are often imitating not the literal observed action but the action they thought the actor intended—the goal or the rationale behind the action Gergely et al.
ADVANCES IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND BEHAVIOR, VOLUME 31
Only when babies have evidence that the speaker intended to refer to a particular object with a label will they learn that word Baldwin, ; Baldwin and Moses, ; Baldwin and Tomasello, By the time they are 18 months old, shared intentionality enables toddlers to act helpfully in a variety of situations; for example, they pick up dropped objects for adults who indicate that they need assistance but not for adults who dropped the object intentionally Warneken and Tomasello, Bloom, ; Hamlin et al. The research on the development of implicit theories in children has important implications for how adults work with and educate young children.
Failure to recognize the extent to which they are construing information in terms of their lay theories can result in educational strategies that oversimplify material for children. Designing effective materials in a given domain or subject matter requires knowing what implicit theories children hold, what core causal principles they use, and what misconceptions and gaps in knowledge they have, and then using empirically validated steps to help lead them to a more accurate, more advanced conceptual framework.
Statistical learning refers to the range of ways in which children, even babies, are implicitly sensitive to the statistical regularities in their environment, although they are not explicitly learning or applying statistics. Like the development of implicit theories, this concept of statistical learning counters the possible misconception of babies as passive learners and bears on the vital importance of their having opportunities to observe and interact with the environment.
Several examples of statistical learning are provided in Box Young children, although not explicitly or consciously experimenting with causality, can experience observations and learning that allow them to conclude that a particular variable X causes or prevents an effect Y. Recent advances in the field have documented the ways young children can implicitly use the statistics of how events covary to infer causal relations, make predictions, generate explanations, guide their exploration, and enable them to intervene in the environment.
The understanding of causal inference also provides an example of how different cognitive abilities—such as a sensitivity to statistical regularities and the development of implicit theories based on observation and learning discussed in the two preceding sections and Box —interact with and can mutually support each other. Several examples of young children developing the ability to understand causal inference are provided in Box Csibra and Gergely argue that humans are equipped with a capacity to realize when someone is communicating something for their benefit and that they construe that information differently than when they merely witness it.
As noted previously in the discussion of developing theory of mind, children as early as infancy devote special attention to social situations that are likely to represent learning opportunities because adults communicate that intention. Information learned in such communicative contexts is treated as more generalizable and robust than that learned in a noncommunicative context. Infants can use information about the statistics of syllables in the speech they hear to help them parse words.
How do we know from hearing prettybaby that baby is more likely to be a word than tyba?
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One way is that the conditional probability of by following ba is higher than that of ba following ty. Babies can use such conditional probabilities of syllables following each other to detect word boundaries, that is, to distinguish between clusters of syllables that form a word and clusters that could be different words strung together. In a pioneering study to test this notion, Saffran and colleagues exposed 8-month-old babies to recordings of trios of syllables that followed each other more frequently and syllables that were at the junctions between these trios and followed each other less frequently.
The latter had a lower conditional probability, representing how words compared with nonwords have syllable combinations that occur more frequently. After a period of exposure to the recording, the time the babies spent looking toward a sound source varied depending on whether they heard a trio of syllables that had appeared together more frequently or one that had appeared together less frequently.
Babies and young children are sensitive to the statistical likelihood of events, which reveals that they both are attuned to regularities they observe in the world and use such regularities to draw inferences and make predictions based on their observations. In one set of studies, for example, month-old babies were shown a box full of many red balls and only a few white balls.
The babies were surprised when balls were poured out of the box and all of them happened to be white or when someone reached into the opaque box and happened to retrieve all white balls. Thus the babies were registering the low proportion of white balls and recognizing the improbability of these events Xu and Denison, In an important variation, however, if the experimenter looked into the box as she picked up the balls, the babies were not surprised if all white balls were selected. Block A placed on the machine always made it go. Block B was associated with the machine turning on but only when Block A was also on the machine.
They were also able to intervene correctly to make the machine stop by removing Block A and not Block B.