Sticking to the evidence? A computational and behavioral case study of micro-theory change in the domain of magnetism

Elizabeth Bonawitz, Tomer Ullman, Alison Gopnik, Josh Tenenbaum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

An intuitive theory is a system of abstract concepts and laws relating those concepts that together provide a framework for explaining some domain of phenomena. Constructing an intuitive theory based on observing the world, as in building a scientific theory from data, confronts learners with a "chicken-and-egg" problem: the laws can only be expressed in terms of the theory's core concepts, but these concepts are only meaningful in terms of the role they play in the theory's laws; how is a learner to discover appropriate concepts and laws simultaneously, knowing neither to begin with? Even knowing the number of categories in a theory does not resolve this problem: without knowing how individuals should be sorted (which categories each belongs to), a the causal relationships between categories cannot be resolved. We explore how children can solve this chicken-and-egg problem in the domain of magnetism, drawing on perspectives from history of science, computational modeling, and behavioral experiments. We present preschoolers with a simplified magnet learning task and show how our empirical results can be explained as rational inferences within a Bayesian computational framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2012 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics, ICDL 2012
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event2012 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics, ICDL 2012 - "San Diego,CA", United States
Duration: Nov 7 2012Nov 9 2012

Publication series

Name2012 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics, ICDL 2012

Other

Other2012 IEEE International Conference on Development and Learning and Epigenetic Robotics, ICDL 2012
CountryUnited States
City"San Diego,CA"
Period11/7/1211/9/12

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction

Keywords

  • Cognitive Development
  • Models
  • Theory Change

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