New publication in Nature Communications: Infants recruit logic to learn about the social world

January 12, 2021

Infants recruit logic to learn about the social world

Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 5999 (2020)


When perceptually available information is scant, we can leverage logical connections among hypotheses to draw reliable conclusions that guide our reasoning and learning. We investigate whether this function of logical reasoning is present in infancy and aid understanding and learning about the social environment. In our task, infants watch reaching actions directed toward a hidden object whose identity is ambiguous between two alternatives and has to be inferred by elimination. Here we show that infants apply a disjunctive inference to identify the hidden object and use this logical conclusion to assess the consistency of the actions with a preference previously demonstrated by the agent and, importantly, also to acquire new knowledge regarding the preferences of the observed actor. These findings suggest that, early in life, preverbal logical reasoning functions as a reliable source of evidence that can support learning by offering a logical route for knowledge acquisition.

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