29 September 2009

From Op-Ed Contributor - Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think - NYTimes.com

Then we gave the children the blocks and asked them to light up the machine. These children, who couldn’t yet add or subtract, were more likely to put the high-probability yellow block, rather than the blue one, on the machine.

Notice that the children are more likely to use the yellow block. I wonder how powerful the effect is and if it varies much from baby to baby or at different ages or gestational lengths.

Babies are captivated by the most unexpected events. Adults, on the other hand, focus on the outcomes that are the most relevant to their goals. In a well-known experiment, adults saw a video of several people tossing a ball to one another. The experimenter told them to count how many passes particular people made. In the midst of this, a person in a gorilla suit walked slowly through the middle of the video. A surprising number of adults, intent on counting, didn’t even seem to notice the unexpected gorilla.

Computer scientists talk about the difference between exploring and exploiting– a system will learn more if it explores many possibilities, but it will be more effective if it simply acts on the most likely one. Babies explore; adults exploit.

Interesting in how these generalities play out to different extents in adults as to how goal-oriented they are, being explorative or exploitative.

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