Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Children Learn Smart Behaviors Without Knowing What they Know

17.06.2008
Young children show evidence of smart and flexible behavior early in life – even though they don’t really know what they’re doing, new research suggests.

In a series of experiments, scientists tested how well 4- and 5-year-olds were able to rely on different types of information to choose objects in a group. In some situations, they were asked to choose objects based on color and in some cases based on shape.

Results showed children could be trained to choose correctly, but still didn’t know why shape or color was the right answer in any particular context.

The findings go against one prominent theory that says children can only show smart, flexible behavior if they have conceptual knowledge – knowledge about how things work, said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology and human development and the director of the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State.

“Children have more powerful learning skills than it was thought previously,” he said. “They can show evidence of flexible learning abilities without conceptual knowledge and without being aware of what they learned.”

Sloutsky conducted the study with Anna Fisher, a former graduate student at Ohio State now an assistant professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Child Development.

Sloutsky gave an example of how children can show flexibility in thinking and behavior.

In a previous study by other researchers, 3- and 4-year-olds were found to be more likely to group items on the basis of color if the items were presented as food, but on the basis of shape when they were presented as toys.

“The argument has been that children couldn’t do this without understanding the properties of food and the properties of toys. So in order to be flexible you really need to understand what things are.

“But what we demonstrated is that children can acquire this flexibility without this deeper knowledge, and without realizing how they are being flexible.”

In their study, Sloutsky and Fisher had several groups of 4- and 5-year-olds participate in several experiments. In all of these experiments, children played a guessing game involving choosing objects on a computer screen. The game was played either in the upper right corner on the computer screen (with a yellow background) or in the lower left hand corner of the computer screen (with a green background).

They were shown one object and told it had a smiley face behind it. They then guessed which of the other two objects also had a smiley face behind it. In each case, one of the other objects had the same color but different shape as the original, while the other had the same shape but a different color.

The key was that when the game was in the upper right corner of the computer screen, the smiley face was always hidden behind the same-shaped item. When the game was presented in the lower left corner, the smiley face was hidden behind the item with the same color.

Some children were given training: after making a guess, they were told whether they were correct or not. These children soon learned where to find the smiley face.

Later, during testing, these children had no trouble correctly guessing where the smiley face was hidden, even though no feedback was given during the actual test.

But, Sloutsky said, “these children were not aware of what they learned. They didn’t know how they were making the correct choices.”

In several related experiments, the researchers tested whether children discovered the “rules” of this game – that shape was important when the game was played in the upper-right corner of the screen, and color was important when it was played in the lower-left corner– and whether they could follow the rule on their own.

The answer was that they did not figure out the rule or know how to use it.

Sloutsky said children in the experiments didn’t know the rules, but simply used associative learning – they figured out that in certain areas of the computer screen, they were better off choosing by shape, and in other areas by color.

“Children developed a running statistic about where they should choose color and where they should choose shape,” he said.

This type of learning goes on all the time with children, Sloutsky explained. For example, children learn that larger animals are generally stronger and more powerful than smaller animals, even though they know nothing about the biological reasons behind this.

The findings have implications for theories of how children learn and develop their cognitive abilities, he said.

“Children learn implicitly. They don’t need complex conceptual knowledge to show evidence of smart, flexible behavior.”

The study was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

Contact: Vladimir Sloutsky (614) 688-5855; Sloutsky.1@osu.edu

Jeff Grabmeier | newswise
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Oxygen loss in the coastal Baltic Sea is “unprecedentedly severe”
05.07.2018 | European Geosciences Union

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: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>