Conférence d'Elizabeth Spelke, résidente 2017-2018 de l'IEA de Paris
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 distance and direction, forms and their scale-invariant geometry, and number: six systems of core knowledge. These systems are innate, abstract, strikingly limited, and opaque to intuition. 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 and intuitive concepts productively by combining concepts from distinct core knowledge systems. 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 social beings, and on two new systems of concepts that emerge quite suddenly at the end of the first year: concepts of artifact objects as bodies whose forms afford specific actions, and concepts of people as social agents whose mental states are both phenomenal and intentional.