Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos

Thursday, March 13, 2014

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.

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.

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