Modeling people as minds acting in a physical world
Abstract: From infancy, we have expectations about the physical and social world - e.g. that objects are solid and people have goals. I propose that this understanding is organized as domain-specific intuitive theories of psychology and physics, that work together in our minds and brains starting early in life. In this talk, I will present past work showing that infants represent information about other people’s minds and actions in terms of their surrounding physical constraints. One future aspiration is to test this proposal further by comparing the predictions of formal computational models of these intuitive theories to infant behavior, when the same stimuli are shown to infants and the model. However, there are at least two challenges to this goal: (1) slow and laborious data acquisition, and (2) the ambiguity of the behavior (longer looking) to be modeled. Thus, I will spend the rest of the talk discussing progress on both fronts, including automated gaze annotation from video, and studies using cognitive neuroscience to disentangle sources of novelty in stimuli from developmental psychology. Together, these tools have the potential to enable high-powered, conceptually precise studies of the origins of the human mind.
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