Daphna Buchsbaum, Psychology, University of Toronto
Title: How Do You Know That? Learning from Social Informants
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2014-2015
VIDEO RECORDING OF TALK
Abstract: We live in a causally complex world, where we must learn not only to predict the consequences of events (“the wind blowing could make that branch fall on me”), but also to act causally on the world ourselves (“pressing the remote control button turns on the TV”). How do children learn causal relationships, especially when the world presents them with sparse, ambiguous data or with multiple, conflicting sources of evidence? Social learning may be especially beneficial —with little expertise and few life experiences, children can quickly acquire large amounts of new information from other people without spending the time and effort to learn through trial-and-error. However, not all information from others is equally dependable. People can be ignorant, make mistakes, or give conflicting information. I will first present work suggesting that children are able to rationally combine multiple sources of information about which actions are causally necessary when deciding what to imitate, interpreting the same statistical evidence differently when it comes from a knowledgeable teacher versus a naïve demonstrator. I will next present research looking at how children and adults combine direct observation of probabilistic data with causal predictions provided by a social informant, and how this influences their future trust in that informant. Finally, I will present research looking at how people reconcile differences in opinion amongst multiple demonstrators, including how they balance the opinion of a majority against the quality of informants’ information. Throughout this work, I use computational probabilistic models to evaluate what learners with differing social assumptions should rationally infer from the social and statistical evidence they receive.
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