18 oct 2018
15:10 - 15:50
Amphithéâtre Marguerite de Navarre, Site Marcelin Berthelot
En libre accès, dans la limite des places disponibles


Elizabeth Spelke, Université Harvard
URL de la vidéo

Young children display the highest degree of general intelligence of any entity on earth. In a few short years, they master their society's language, object categories and functions (plants, animals, artifacts), social networks, customs, conventions, everyday symbols, common sense beliefs, and values.  Because human societies are highly diverse, most of this understanding must be learned. What enables children to learn so much, so quickly? Research in developmental cognitive science provides evidence that infants are endowed with systems of core knowledge, each centered on concepts that are abstract and universal across human societies. Moreover, infants and young children learn one or more natural languages from the speech of the members of their social world. By learning this language, I hypothesize, children build on the concepts of core knowledge and combine them to form new concepts and systems of knowledge. Language fosters this uniquely human pattern of conceptual development in two ways. First, every human language consists of an open-ended lexicon and and a set of recursive rules for forming new expressions, conveying meanings that depend only on the language's words and rules. Thus, language can support infinitely many new concepts. Second, mature speakers use language convey thoughts they consider relevant, composed of concepts they consider useful. Thus, the language children learn from others guides them to the shared concepts and beliefs of their society.


Elizabeth Spelke is The Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and an investigator at the NSF-MIT Center for Brains, Minds and Machines. She was educated at Harvard and Cornell Universities and then taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and MIT before moving to Harvard in 2001. Her laboratory focuses on the sources of uniquely human cognitive capacities, including capacities for formal mathematics, for constructing and using symbolic representations such as maps, for developing comprehensive taxonomies of objects, and for reasoning about other people and their mental states. She probes the sources of these capacities primarily through behavioral research on human infants and preschool children, focusing on the origins and development of knowledge of objects, actions, people, places, number, and geometry. In collaboration with computational cognitive scientists, she has begun to test computational models of infants' cognitive capacities. In collaboration with economists, she has also begun to take her research from the laboratory to the field, with randomized controlled experiments evaluating interventions to enhance young children's learning.

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