Colloquium du DEC

Core knowledge operates automatically and tacitly in adults: Three case studies

Brent Strickland
Informations pratiques
04 décembre 2012

"Core cognition" is typically studied in the context of infancy research on early emerging physical or social knowledge (Spelke & Kinzler, 2007) . This work emphasizes the bootstrapping function that innate knowledge serves in guiding early learning. However, core cognition also continues to operate automatically and often tacitly into adulthood and in ways that can be at odds with other aspects of adult cognition. This phenomenon was originally discovered by vision researchers interested in the overlap between infant object knowledge and the visual system's representations of objects (Scholl, 2001). Here I present three new lines of research demonstrating that core cognition's influence on the adult mind is much more pervasive than originally thought. First, the adult visual system automatically categorizes physical events into discrete types (e.g. containment, occlusion, covering, etc..) and uses these representations to guide attention in a way that directly mirrors recently observed results in infants. Secondly, just as pre-verbal infants appear to automatically infer the presence of unseen causes in collision events, so too can such inferences cause adults to falsely remember having seen a (visually absent but implied) collision. Finally, the concept of a social "agent," which guides young infants' expectations about the behavior of social (as compared to inanimate) actors, is also deeply embedded in the structure of natural language processing in adulthood. Taken as a whole, these findings suggest that core knowledge structures the on-line operation of a wide range of adult mental faculties such as language, memory, and perception. A major future challenge is to better understand the ways in which these "infant legacies" both facilitate and distort adult cognition.