The overall goal of this target article is to demonstrate a mechanism for an embodied cognition. The particular vehicle is a much-studied, but still widely debated phenomenon seen in 7–12 month-old-infants. In Piaget's classic “A-not-B error,” infants who have successfully uncovered a toy at location “A” continue to reach to that location even after they watch the toy hidden in a nearby location “B.” Here, we question the traditional explanations of the error as an indicator of infants' concepts of objects (...) or other static mental structures. Instead, we demonstrate that the A-not-B error and its previously puzzling contextual variations can be understood by the coupled dynamics of the ordinary processes of goal-directed actions: looking, planning, reaching, and remembering. We offer a formal dynamic theory and model based on cognitive embodiment that both simulates the known A-not-B effects and offers novel predictions that match new experimental results. The demonstration supports an embodied view by casting the mental events involved in perception, planning, deciding, and remembering in the same analogic dynamic language as that used to describe bodily movement, so that they may be continuously meshed. We maintain that this mesh is a pre-eminently cognitive act of “knowing” not only in infancy but also in everyday activities throughout the life span. Key Words: cognitive development; dynamical systems theory; embodied cognition; infant development; motor control; motor planning; perception and action. (shrink)
Cross-situational word learning, like any statistical learning problem, involves tracking the regularities in the environment. However, the information that learners pick up from these regularities is dependent on their learning mechanism. This article investigates the role of one type of mechanism in statistical word learning: competition. Competitive mechanisms would allow learners to find the signal in noisy input and would help to explain the speed with which learners succeed in statistical learning tasks. Because cross-situational word learning provides information at multiple (...) scales—both within and across trials/situations—learners could implement competition at either or both of these scales. A series of four experiments demonstrate that cross-situational learning involves competition at both levels of scale, and that these mechanisms interact to support rapid learning. The impact of both of these mechanisms is considered from the perspective of a process-level understanding of cross-situational learning. (shrink)
Infants' own activities create and actively select their learning experiences. Here we review recent models of embodied information seeking and curiosity-driven learning and show that these mechanisms have deep implications for development and evolution. We discuss how these mechanisms yield self-organized epigenesis with emergent ordered behavioral and cognitive developmental stages. We describe a robotic experiment that explored the hypothesis that progress in learning, in and for itself, generates intrinsic rewards: The robot learners probabilistically selected experiences according to their potential for (...) reducing uncertainty. In these experiments, curiosity-driven learning led the robot learner to successively discover object affordances and vocal interaction with its peers. We explain how a learning curriculum adapted to the current constraints of the learning system automatically formed, constraining learning and shaping the developmental trajectory. The observed trajectories in the robot experiment share many properties with those in infant development, including a mixture of regularities and diversities in the developmental patterns. Finally, we argue that such emergent developmental structures can guide and constrain evolution, in particular with regard to the origins of language. (shrink)
Learning depends on attention. The processes that cue attention in the moment dynamically integrate learned regularities and immediate contextual cues. This paper reviews the extensive literature on cued attention and attentional learning in the adult literature and proposes that these fundamental processes are likely significant mechanisms of change in cognitive development. The value of this idea is illustrated using phenomena in children's novel word learning.
New efforts are using head cameras and eye-trackers worn by infants to capture everyday visual environments from the point of view of the infant learner. From this vantage point, the training sets for statistical learning develop as the sensorimotor abilities of the infant develop, yielding a series of ordered datasets for visual learning that differ in content and structure between timepoints but are highly selective at each timepoint. These changing environments may constitute a developmentally ordered curriculum that optimizes learning across (...) many domains. Future advances in computational models will be necessary to connect the developmentally changing content and statistics of infant experience to the internal machinery that does the learning. (shrink)
Human development takes place in a social context. Two pervasive sources of social information are faces and hands. Here, we provide the first report of the visual frequency of faces and hands in the everyday scenes available to infants. These scenes were collected by having infants wear head cameras during unconstrained everyday activities. Our corpus of 143 hours of infant-perspective scenes, collected from 34 infants aged 1 month to 2 years, was sampled for analysis at 1/5 Hz. The major finding (...) from this corpus is that the faces and hands of social partners are not equally available throughout the first two years of life. Instead, there is an earlier period of dense face input and a later period of dense hand input. At all ages, hands in these scenes were primarily in contact with objects and the spatio-temporal co-occurrence of hands and faces was greater than expected by chance. The orderliness of the shift from faces to hands suggests a principled transition in the contents of visual experiences and is discussed in terms of the role of developmental gates on the timing and statistics of visual experiences. (shrink)
The words in children's language learning environments are strongly predictive of cognitive development and school achievement. But how do we measure language environments and do so at the scale of the many words that children hear day in, day out? The quantity and quality of words in a child's input are typically measured in terms of total amount of talk and the lexical diversity in that talk. There are disagreements in the literature whether amount or diversity is the more critical (...) measure of the input. Here we analyze the properties of a large corpus of speech to children and simulate learning environments that differ in amount of talk per unit time, lexical diversity, and the contexts of talk. The central conclusion is that what researchers need to theoretically understand, measure, and change is not the total amount of words, or the diversity of words, but the function that relates total words to the diversity of words, and how that function changes across different contexts of talk. (shrink)
Joint attention has been extensively studied in the developmental literature because of overwhelming evidence that the ability to socially coordinate visual attention to an object is essential to healthy developmental outcomes, including language learning. The goal of this study was to understand the complex system of sensory-motor behaviors that may underlie the establishment of joint attention between parents and toddlers. In an experimental task, parents and toddlers played together with multiple toys. We objectively measured joint attention—and the sensory-motor behaviors that (...) underlie it—using a dual head-mounted eye-tracking system and frame-by-frame coding of manual actions. By tracking the momentary visual fixations and hand actions of each participant, we precisely determined just how often they fixated on the same object at the same time, the visual behaviors that preceded joint attention and manual behaviors that preceded and co-occurred with joint attention. We found that multiple sequential sensory-motor patterns lead to joint attention. In addition, there are developmental changes in this multi-pathway system evidenced as variations in strength among multiple routes. We propose that coordinated visual attention between parents and toddlers is primarily a sensory-motor behavior. Skill in achieving coordinated visual attention in social settings—like skills in other sensory-motor domains—emerges from multiple pathways to the same functional end. (shrink)
Traditional views separate cognitive processes from sensory–motor processes, seeing cognition as amodal, propositional, and compositional, and thus fundamentally different from the processes that underlie perceiving and acting. These were the ideas on which cognitive science was founded 30 years ago. However, advancing discoveries in neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, and psychology suggests that cognition may be inseparable from processes of perceiving and acting. From this perspective, this study considers the future of cognitive science with respect to the study of cognitive development.
Previous research suggests that children learning a variety of languages acquire similar early noun vocabularies and do so by similar and universal processes. We report here results from two studies that show differences in the early noun learning of English- and Japanese-speaking children. Experiment 1 examined the relative numbers of animal names and object names in vocabularies of English-speaking and Japanese-speaking children. English-speaking children's vocabularies were heavily lopsided with many more object than animal names whereas Japanese-speaking children's vocabularies were more (...) evenly balanced. Experiment 2 used a novel noun extension task to examine what young children know about the different organizations of animal and artifact categories. The results suggest that early learners of English but not Japanese over-generalize what they know about object categories to animal categories. The role of culture, input and linguistic structure in early noun acquisitions is discussed. (shrink)
We argue that mentalistic constructs like the “object concept” are not substitutes for process explanations of cognition, and that it is impossible to prove the existence of such constructs with behavioral tasks. We defend the field theory as an appropriate level for modeling embodiment. Finally, we discuss the model's biological plausibility and its extensions to other tasks and other species.