Learning categorical information gives children a feeling of deja vu

Study: Learning categorical information gives children a feeling of deja vu
Doctoral student Shelbie Sutherland and psychology professor Andrei Cimpian found that young children learn broad facts about the world so readily that they do not remember learning the information and have the illusion that they already knew it. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

During development, children must learn both broad facts about the world (that dogs have four legs, for example) and information that is more specific (that the family dog is scared of snow). While research in developmental psychology suggests that young children should have an easier time learning specific, concrete facts, a new study reveals that they learn general facts so effortlessly that they often can't tell that they learned anything new at all.

The study appears in the journal Developmental Psychology.

The researchers, University of Illinois psychology professor Andrei Cimpian and doctoral student Shelbie L. Sutherland, said this "knew-it-all-along" illusion suggests that 's minds more readily absorb information about broad categories than about specifics.

Upon learning a previously unknown, categorical fact ("opossums make their homes in foliage," for example), the 4- to 7-year-old children in the study often felt that they already knew that fact. But when researchers gave them more specific information ("this opossum makes his home in foliage"), the children were better able to recognize that this was something they hadn't known before.

This difference between general, categorywide facts and specific facts was present even in the youngest children in the study, and its magnitude did not decrease with age. Overall, though, children's ability to realize when they learned something new improved with age.

"From a very early age, kids are capable of reasoning about the world in these broad terms," Cimpian said. "This fact - that children thought they knew the information about categories all along - provides an interesting window into how their cognitive systems are eager to absorb general facts."

Asking children if they previously knew the information was a means of determining how they learn, Cimpian said.

"We asked them these questions because we think this is the way to catch the mind at work - by revealing this illusion," he said. "Kids assume it is such important, widely shared information that it feels to them like they've known it all along."

Based on the new findings, Cimpian and Sutherland speculated that kids might be less likely to revise information about broad categories. This could prove problematic in certain situations, such as when children are exposed to stereotypes about groups of people.

"If they don't recognize that they've learned something new, they won't be able to go back and revise information that they find out later is wrong," Sutherland said.

The researchers said much of the previous work in suggests that are better able to reason about concrete things in the moment. The new study shows that children also are capable of learning about broad, abstract ideas, and that learning at this level might in fact be more efficient for them.

"The fact that kids' minds are especially attuned to this information is important," Cimpian said. "If you learn about dogs as a category, then that information also applies to this dog and the dog you see tomorrow and the dog you'll see in a month. Broad facts about the world provide kids with general that helps them navigate their world."

Explore further

Study reveals that children as young as five can gauge when adults are overconfident

More information: "Children Show Heightened Knew-It-All-Along Errors When Learning New Facts About Kinds: Evidence for the Power of Kind Representations in Children's Thinking," internal.psychology.illinois.e … herlandCimpianDP.pdf
Journal information: Developmental Psychology

Citation: Learning categorical information gives children a feeling of deja vu (2015, July 8) retrieved 15 September 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-07-categorical-children-deja-vu.html
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Jul 09, 2015
The two types of learning represents two classes of knowledge, cultural and personal knowledge.

Cultural knowledge is what everybody knows and this includes general facts, science and other information including religious knowledge.

This is not derived from person experience and so does not feel like it has been learned *personally* but that it is *existing knowledge*.

We retain these categories throughout life. The other two categories of knowledge are innate, which is largely confined to physical interaction (eg pain hurts) and some very general knowledge.

The other category is contextual knowledge: what you know from your senses right now.

Children attribute general knowledge to pre-existing knowledge and express this as 'having always known'. There is no other easy way available for them to express the notion that knowledge is pre-existing and not personally acquired from experience.

Jul 09, 2015
Cultural knowledge about evolution achieved an "everyone knows this" consensus among pseudoscientists and their idiot minions before the nonsense that population geneticists taught was exposed by serious scientists.

What "everyone knows" must now be replaced with facts about how ecological variation leads to ecological adaptation via changes in the microRNA/messenger RNA balance and epigenetically effected RNA-mediated cell type differentiation.

Israeli Middle Schools School to Include Theory of Evolution http://www.educat...olution/

Excerpt: "...learning about evolution is not the primary function of the decision, but rather to use it as a building block for students to learn more about their ecology."

contextual knowledge: what you know from your senses right now.

If you are starving to death, common sense tells you that you are not going to evolve.

Jul 10, 2015
See also: http://www.fronti...15.00230

The link from the epigenetic landscape to the physical landscape of DNA is RNA-directed and occurs in the context of the fixation of RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions via the physiology of reproduction in all genera.

An example that links the honeybee model organism of life history transitions to humans is: Oppositional COMT Val158Met effects on resting state functional connectivity in adolescents and adults http://link.sprin...-0895-5.

When evolutionary theorists learn that a single nutrient-dependent amino acid substitution has organism-level effects on hormones that affect the development of behavior, they may begin to realize why most serious scientists do not take evolutionary theorists seriously.

Jul 10, 2015
Excerpt: "If they don't recognize that they've learned something new, they won't be able to go back and revise information that they find out later is wrong," Sutherland said.

If they don't learn that what they were taught to believe about neo-Darwinism is wrong, they will not join serious scientists who are Combating Evolution to Fight Disease http://www.scienc...88.short

They may never realize that claims about "The Man Who Bottled Evolution" http://www.scienc...90.short are misrepresentations of evidence that links ecological variation to ecological adaptations via the conserved molecular mechanisms of biophysically constrained protein folding chemistry, which links the physiology of reproduction to biodiversity in all genera via RNA mediated amino acid substitutions and cell type differentiation.

Nutrient-dependent/pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution: a model. http://www.ncbi.n...24693353

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