© UTM ChiLD LAB

Acquiring Counterintuitive Concepts

A lot of things in this world defy our perceptions and intuitions. 

 

Although our eyes and bodies tell us we’re walking on a flat ground, earth is really a sphere.  We’re surrounded by invisible yet powerful entities, like germs, oxygen, and atoms. Birds and  snakes, which look really different from one another, share a common ancestor. 

These facts and ideas go against our everyday experiences and intuitive theories about how the world works.  As a result, they are difficult to learn. 

The ChiLD lab studies how over time and with the help of other people children can come to understand and believe in these ideas. We study the factors that promote conceptual change and influence children’s beliefs in counterintuitive and counter-perceptual —including the types of claims and explanations that children are given and children’s own cognitive abilities and intuitions.

 

Learning to Question

Children are active learners. They do not wait to be instructed by others. They observe, explore, and ask questions. These abilities develop over time and allow children to check whether what they have been told is correct. It also allows them obtain the information they want or need when they need it. This ability to seek information, to evaluate that information, and to use it update one's belief is a remarkable cognitive achievement.  

The ChiLD lab studies the development of this remarkable capacity as well as the factors that promote that development  — including parents' beliefs, culture, as well as children's cognitive abilities and temperament. 

Transmitting Information

Innovation, in tandem with our ability to share knowledge across generations, has allowed humans to prosper in diverse environments. This capacity for cumulative culture is extraordinary.

For example, over time we have developed tools that have increasingly improved our ability to create and transmit knowledge: from clay tables and writing utensils to the printing press, and the internet.

Teaching plays an important role in that process because it makes it possible to quickly and efficiently convey information that is difficult to learn. By facilitating the accurate transmission of information, teaching provides a stable knowledge base — a prerequisite for innovation. 

The ChiLD lab studies studies children's understanding and engagement in teaching.