Saturday, 14 May 2011

Are Infants born for learning?

On The Thoughtful Animal blog I found a most interesting assessment of work on Pedagogy by the Hungarian psychologists Gergely and Csibra, and posted the following comment:

I found this most interesting, although as I did not retain my academic affiliations on retiring I was unable to access the paper by Csibra and Gergely. When I was trying to develop a language for communicating between humans and a novel “white box” information processing system many years ago I was too tied up with the technology. For various reasons the research was abandoned but recently I have been looking at my old ideas and am finding that my research probably had more in common with ideas on the evolution of communication in humans than with conventional algorithmic computing. 
I very much like the idea that human communication is an evolutionary adaptation designed to aid in the transmission of generic knowledge between individuals.  My approach was basically to devise a language to name objects and relate them together in a semantic framework. The processor was a routine which matched objects with a “short term memory” of current object descriptions, in a way that involved the recursive scanning of sets, and partitions of sets.
The relevance is that if you describe objects as members of a hierarchy of sets, what you are actually doing is to make generalisations. It would seem that move from specific knowledge of individual items to generic knowledge is related to the ability to classify the objects into named sets. Such a step is important for efficient communication between generations, and essential for the development of language. 
I will definitely be considering the idea expressed here as part of the reassessment om my earlier research.

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