[Seminar] Curiosity-based learning in infants and computational models by Dr. Gert Westermann
Title:Curiosity-based learning in infants and computational models
Speaker: Dr. Gert Westermann, Lancaster University, UK
Abstract:The last 40 years have seen tremendous progress in our understanding of infants’ cognitive development. This work has yielded many important insights into how infants process and learn information, for example in their formation of object categories. In these studies, infants are typically presented with a sequence of objects on a computer screen, and the time they spend looking at these objects is used to infer how they categorize them. However, in these studies an experimenter chooses what infants see, in which order, and for how long. This is very different from infants’ real-world experiences where they can explore their environment freely and interact with objects driven by their own curiosity.
This curiosity-based learning has recently become a focus of interest in the field, and one challenge has been to understand the mechanisms underlying infants’ exploratory behaviour. In my talk, I will describe a series of studies examining how infants choose to learn when allowed to freely explore a category. I will present the first “curious” neural network model of infant categorization which captures existing empirical data (Mather & Plunkett, 2011) and predicts, in line with recent empirical work (Kidd, Piantadosi & Aslin, 2012), that infants will choose to learn from stimuli of intermediate complexity. Next I will describe a category exploration/looking time task in which infants viewed a simple 2D shape category, and as predicted by the model, generated sequences of visual exploration of intermediate complexity. Finally, I will present preliminary data from an ongoing 3D category exploration/object examining task in which infants were presented with categories of shapes, and again showed nonrandom exploration. Taken together, these studies offer new evidence that even young infants can systematically impose structure on their learning environment, actively driving their development based on their intrinsic curiosity.