Learning From Others

Patrick Shafto, Noah D. Goodman, Michael C. Frank
2012 Perspectives on Psychological Science  
From early childhood, human beings learn not only from collections of facts about the world, but also in social contexts: from observation of other people, from communication, and from explicit teaching. In these contexts, the data are the result of human actions-actions that come about because of people's goals and intentions. To interpret the implications of others' actions correctly, learners must understand the people generating the data. Most models of learning, however, assume that data
more » ... e randomly collected facts about the world, and cannot explain how social contexts influence learning. We provide a Bayesian analysis of learning from knowledgeable others, which formalizes how a learner may reason from a person's actions and goals to infer the actor's knowledge about the world. We illustrate this framework using two examples from causal learning and conclude by discussing the implications for cognition, social reasoning, and cognitive development. Learning from human action 3 Learning from others: The consequences of psychological reasoning for human learning Children are often compared to scientists, but even a perfect scientist, using experiments alone, would struggle to rediscover all of human knowledge in the span of one lifetime. How then are children able to acquire a good fraction of this knowledge in just a few years? The answer must be that children do not rediscover everything-they use their ability to reason intuitively about other people to learn what others already know. It is the goal of this paper to
doi:10.1177/1745691612448481 pmid:26168471 fatcat:iykcdtv5yffohcrs4ef3h6s7xu