Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos

Date:
March 6, 2014
Source:
University of California - Berkeley
Summary:
Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they're more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research.

A new study shows children can sometimes outsmart grownups when it comes to figuring out how gadgets work because they’re less biased in their ideas about cause and effect.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Berkeley

Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they're more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Edinburgh.

Related Articles


The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers' efforts to use children's cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways.

"As far as we know, this is the first study examining whether children can learn abstract cause and effect relationships, and comparing them to adults," said UC Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, senior author of the paper published online in the journal, Cognition.

Using a game they call "Blickets," the researchers looked at how 106 preschoolers (aged 4 and 5) and 170 college undergrads figured out a gizmo that works in an unusual way. They did this by placing clay shapes (cubes, pyramids, cylinders, etc), on a red-topped box to see which of the widgets -- individually or in combination -- could light up the box and play music. The shapes that activated the machine were called "blickets."

What separated the young players from the adult players was their response to changing evidence in the blicket demonstrations. For example, unusual combinations could make the machine go, and children caught on to that rule, while the adults tended to focus on which individual blocks activated the machine even in the face of changing evidence.

"The kids got it. They figured out that the machine might work in this unusual way and so that you should put both blocks on together. But the best and brightest students acted as if the machine would always follow the common and obvious rule, even when we showed them that it might work differently," wrote Gopnik in her forthcoming column in The Wall Street Journal.

Overall, the youngsters were more likely to entertain unlikely possibilities to figure out "blicketness." This confirmed the researchers' hypothesis that preschoolers and kindergartners instinctively follow Bayesian logic, a statistical model that draws inferences by calculating the probability of possible outcomes.

"One big question, looking forward, is what makes children more flexible learners -- are they just free from the preconceptions that adults have, or are they fundamentally more flexible or exploratory in how they see the world?" said Christopher Lucas, lead author of the paper and a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. "Regardless, children have a lot to teach us about learning."

Other co-authors of the study are Thomas Griffiths and Sophie Bridgers of the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology.

A new study shows children can sometimes outsmart grownups when it comes to figuring out how gadgets work because they're less biased in their ideas about cause and effect. (Video by Roxanne Majasdjian and Philip Ebiner) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQ0DemKcEA


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Berkeley. The original article was written by Yasmin Anwar. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christopher G. Lucas, Sophie Bridgers, Thomas L. Griffiths, Alison Gopnik. When children are better (or at least more open-minded) learners than adults: Developmental differences in learning the forms of causal relationships. Cognition, 2014; 131 (2): 284 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.12.010

Cite This Page:

University of California - Berkeley. "Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306191530.htm>.
University of California - Berkeley. (2014, March 6). Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306191530.htm
University of California - Berkeley. "Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140306191530.htm (accessed March 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, March 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins