Core Cognitive Mechanisms in Learning and Development

Colloquium | March 12 | 3-4:30 p.m. | 5101 Tolman Hall

 Celeste Kidd, Assistant Professor, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Center for Visual Science, University of Rochester

 Neuroscience Institute, Helen Wills

The talk will discuss approaches aimed at understanding the computational mechanisms that drive learning and development in young children. Although infants are born knowing little about the world, they possess remarkable learning mechanisms that eventually create sophisticated systems of knowledge. We discuss recent empirical findings about learners’ cognitive mechanisms—including attention, curiosity, and metacognition—that permit such striking learning throughout infancy and childhood. We will review evidence that infants enter the world equipped with sophisticated attentional strategies that select intermediately complex material to maximize their learning potential (the “Goldilocks effect” of infant attention, e.g., Kidd, Piantadosi, & Aslin, 2012, 2014; Piantadosi, Kidd, & Aslin, 2014). We will also discuss more recent work on the dynamics of idealized attention in complex learning environments, with a focus on attentional-switching patterns and their implications for understanding learning (e.g., Pelz, Piantadosi, & Kidd, 2015; Pelz, Yung, & Kidd, 2015; Wade & Kidd, under review). We will also touch on how these general mechanisms facilitate not only smart attentional decisions, but also good decision-making in general (e.g., Kidd, Palmeri, & Aslin, 2013).