Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Preschoolers Use Statistics to Understand Others

18.08.2010
Children are natural psychologists. By the time they’re in preschool, they understand that other people have desires, preferences, beliefs, and emotions. But how they learn this isn’t clear. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that children figure out another person’s preferences by using a topic you’d think they don’t encounter until college: statistics.

In one experiment, children aged 3 and 4 saw a puppet named “Squirrel” remove five toys of the same type from a container full of toys and happily play with them. Across children, the toys that Squirrel removed were the same (for example, all five were blue flowers). What varied, however, were the contents of the container.

For one-third of the children, 100 percent of the toys were the same type (so, in this example, all were blue flowers). For another third of the children, only 50 percent were that type (that is, half were blue flowers and half were red circles). Finally, for the last third of the children only 18 percent were of that type (that is, 82 percent were red circles). Later on, children were asked to give Squirrel a toy that he likes. The children were more likely to give Squirrel the blue flowers if he had selected them out of the container that had other toys in it.

More amazingly, the proportion of other toys mattered as well; they gave Squirrel the blue flowers more when the container included only 18 percent blue flowers, and slightly less often when the container had 50 percent blue flowers. When the container had 100 percent blue flowers, they gave him toys at random. That means the child inferred that the puppet liked blue flowers best if the sample of five toys didn’t match the proportion of toys in the population (the container). This is a statistical phenomenon known as non-random sampling.

In another experiment, 18- to 24-month-olds also learned about the preferences of an adult experimenter from non-random sampling. They watched the adult choose five toys that were either 18 percent or 82 percent of the toys in a box. The adult played happily with the toy either way, but the toddler only concluded that the adult had a preference if they’d picked the toys from a box in which that toy was scarce.

Of course, statistical information isn’t the only way children learn about the preferences of other people. Emotion and verbalization are also important—but this is a new cue that no one had identified before, says Tamar Kushnir of Cornell University. She carried out the study with Fei Xu of the University of California, Berkeley and Henry M. Wellman of the University of Michigan.

“Babies are amazing,” says Kushnir. “Babies and children are like little scientists. Mostly they learn by observing and experiencing the world. Just let them do it. Later on, there will be time for formal instruction, but when they’re really young, this sort of informal learning is critical.”

For more information about this study, please contact: Tamar Kushnir at tk397@cornell.edu.

Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. For a copy of the article "Young Children Use Statistical Sampling to Infer the Preferences of Other People" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Keri Chiodo at 202-293-9300 or kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org.

Keri Chiodo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

Further reports about: Children Psychological Science Science TV preschoolers squirrel

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>