Developmental Psychology Colloquium

Colloquium | March 19 | 12:10-1:30 p.m. | 3105 Tolman Hall

 Yuan Meng, Department of Psychology; Ruthee Foushee, Department of Psychology

 Department of Psychology

Yuan Meng : Children’s Causal Interventions Combine Discrimination and Confirmation

Like scientists, children can design "experiments" to distinguish between causal structures, but their performance often falls short of information-theoretic metrics such as the expected information gain (EIG). Such deviation may have resulted from mixing normative discriminatory strategies such as maximizing EIG with confirmatory strategies such as the positive test strategy (PTS). In one experiment, 39 5- to 7-year-olds intervened on a three-node causal system to identify its correct structure from two possibilities. Their intervention choices were better fit by a model that considered both EIG and PTS compared to alternative models that only considered a single strategy or selected interventions at random. The findings suggest that children’s causal intervention strategy may be a combination of discrimination and confirmation. In ongoing and future work, I am looking at whether the weight of EIG may change as result of different prompts (explain vs. report intervention choices) or the nature of the effects (positive vs. negative).

Ruthe Foushee: Learning to Learn in Language Development

While there has been much research focused on what counts as effective input in language development, fewer studies focus on the role of the learner herself in filtering the language input she is exposed to and in adapting to her environment. I will discuss two studies, one planned and one ongoing, that explore how children direct their attention to and make use of the language around them. One study asks whether children discriminate different levels of linguistic complexity, and select the appropriate level for their own learning, and the other investigates how classroom socialization might influence children's learning from overheard language.