The Center for Research in Cognition & Neurosciences of the Université Libre de Bruxelles is pleased to announce that Dr James L. McClelland (Stanford University), the recipient of the 2014 Heineken Prize for the Cognitive Sciences will deliver a lecture on Friday 26 September at the University Foundation in Brussels.
McClelland, together with David Rumelhart and the PDP research group, pioneered the connectionist approach to human cognition. A member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), he is also, more locally, an honorary member of the Belgian Association (1997) for Psychological Sciences and a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2005).
How experience leads to readiness to learn
Research on human development and learning reveals many examples of cases in which children of one age readily learn something, while children a bit younger do not. When children are ready, we say that they are in 'the zone of proximal development' -- but how can we explain when and how they enter this zone? My research using artificial neural network models has explored this and related issues -- including striking U-shaped developmental trends, in which learning appears to go backwards before it progresses. These issues arise in a range of different contexts, including children's readiness to learn such things as basic intuitions about principles of physics, the conceptual organization of different natural kinds, and the correct interpretation of mathematical symbols, such at the equal sign. In my talk I will mention these cases, and discuss how learning processes operating in deep neural networks can help us understand these phenomena.