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Name of Event and Speaker - Graham Lecture - Elizabeth Spelke

Neil Graham Lecture in Science: Professor Elizabeth Spelke, Harvard University on "From Core Concepts to New Systems of Knowledge"

Endowed Lecture Series
Alumni
Current Students
Public

Young children rapidly develop a basic, commonsense understanding of how the world works.  Research on infants suggests that this understanding rests on early emerging cognitive systems for representing bodies and their motions, agents and their actions, people and their social engagements, places and their relations of geocentric distance and direction, forms and their scale-invariant geometry, and number:  six systems of core knowledge. These systems are innate, abstract, strikingly limited, and yet present and functional throughout human life.  Infants’ knowledge then grows both through gradual learning processes that people share with other animals, and through a fast and flexible learning process that is unique to our species and emerges with the onset of language. The latter process composes new systems of concepts productively by combining concepts from distinct systems of core knowledge.  The compositional process is poorly understood but amenable to study, through coordinated behavioral testing and computational modeling of infants’ learning. To illustrate, this talk will focus on core knowledge of objects, agents, and number, and on two new systems of concepts that emerge over human development and support uniquely human achievements:  the artifact concepts underlying prolific tool use, and the numerical concepts underlying counting and exact arithmetic.

Lecture: 4:30pm in UC 140
Reception to follow in UC 240