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 New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>