Preschoolers recently bested college students on a complex game called “Blickets,” leading researchers who compared the two groups to surmise that the young are sometimes more flexible thinkers than grown-ups.
Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Edinburgh asked 106 4- and 5-year-old preschoolers and 170 college undergraduates to figure out how to make clay shapes light up a box and make the box play music, states a study slated for publication this May in the journal “Cognition.” The little learners caught on quickly, but the college students did not always note the changing evidence.
“As far as we know, this is the first study examining whether children can learn abstract cause and effect relationships, and comparing them to adults,” said U.C. Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, in a statement. Gopnik is the senior author of the paper entitled “When Children are Better (or at least more open-minded) Learners than Adults: Developmental Differences in Learning the Forms of Causal Relationships.”
The research proved that young children instinctively follow what’s called Bayesian logic, the study stated. This type of thinking calculates the probability of possible outcomes.
For example, the children studied were more likely to entertain unlikely possibilities than the college students, the researchers wrote.
“One big question, looking forward, is what makes children more flexible learners— are they just free from the preconceptions that adults have, or are they fundamentally more flexible or exploratory in how they see the world?” said Christopher Lucas, another lead author of the paper and a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. “Regardless, children have a lot to teach us about learning.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.