Welcome to ECCL at MIT!
The infrastructure of human cognition -- our commonsense understanding of the physical and social world -- is constructed during early childhood. In the Early Childhood Cognition lab, we study the representations and learning mechanisms that underlie this feat. Our research looks at 1) how children infer the concepts and causal relations that enable them to engage in accurate prediction, explanation, and intervention; 2) the factors that support curiosity and exploration, allowing children to engage in effective discovery and 3) how the social-communicative context (e.g., demonstrating evidence, explaining events, disagreeing about hypotheses) affects children’s learning.
Computational models of human cognition inform much of the research in the lab. I have been especially interested in understanding trade-offs in the inferential process, such that the same inductive biases that constrain the hypothesis space and allow us to draw rich inferences from sparse data can also make it difficult for us to revise our beliefs. This paradox poses a challenge for educators but also provides insight into the factors that might promote effective learning and teaching.
Most of the research in the lab involves babies and children. Since babies and children have limited prior knowledge and no formal training, understanding how children reason about the world can give us insight into the origins of knowledge and fundamental principles of learning. We use a variety of non-invasive, behavioral methods, ranging from infant-looking time to free-play measures in our studies. Please feel free to visit! We have laboratories on site at both MIT and the Boston Children’s Museum and parents and children are always welcome to participate. Thank you families! Research on early childhood development would be impossible without your support.