A new study out of the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Edinburgh claims that preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because “they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect…”. Researchers said that technology and innovation could benefit from skills that come naturally to young children, such as exploratory learning and reasoning skills.
The researchers, whose paper was published in the online journal Cognition, used a game called “Blickets” and compared the ways in which 106 preschoolers between the ages of 4 and 5 and 170 college undergrads figured out which clay shapes lit up a box and played music when they were placed on top of the box (either individually or in some combination).
The research showed that the difference between the problem solving skills of the two age groups was the young children’s response to the changing evidence in the blicket demonstrations. They were more apt at picking up the fact that unusual combinations could be successful, while adults mainly focused on which individual blocks would do the same thing. “…the best and brightest students acted as if the machine would always follow the common and obvious rule, even when we showed them that it might work differently” (Alison Gopnik, senior author of the Cognition paper).
The fact that the children were more likely to entertain unlikely possibilities to figure out the problem confirmed the researcher’s hypothesis that children this age follow Bayesian Logic, a statistical model that draws inferences by calculating the probability of possible outcomes. The researchers were in unanimity that children have a lot that they can teach us (researchers and students alike) about learning.
Posted by: Taylor Schille (6)