Assistant Professor of Psychology Vikranth Bejjanki co-authored a paper that was recently published in the journal Developmental Science. His co-authors on “Young children combine sensory cues with learned information in a statistically efficient manner: But task complexity matters” were Emily Randrup ’17 and Richard Aslin of Haskins Laboratories. The paper includes research completed by Randrup for her senior project.
According to Bejjanki, “Prior research has shown that young children, and even infants, are sensitive to, and can learn from, patterns of information (i.e., regularities) that are present in their environment. However, it was unclear if young children are able to utilize learned regularities in a statistically efficient fashion.”
Bejjanki, Randrup, and Aslin used a spatial localization task and showed “for the first time that 6- to 7-year old children are indeed capable of learning and utilizing regularities in a statistically efficient fashion, and in a manner indistinguishable from adult behavior.
“However, we also show that variables such as the complexity of the task can influence young children’s behavior to a greater extent than that of adults, leading their behavior to look sub-optimal. Our findings have important implications for how we should interpret failures in young children's ability to carry out sophisticated computations,” Bejjanki said.
He noted that “these ‘failures’ need not be attributed to deficits in the fundamental computational capacity available to children early in development, but rather to ancillary immaturities in general cognitive abilities (e.g., in their executive functioning skills) that mask the operation of these computations in specific situations.”