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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Integrating a physical constraint into a statistical inference mechanism by 11-month-old infants Denison, Stephanie M.


The majority of research on cognitive development focuses on either early-emerging domain-specific knowledge or domain-general learning mechanisms; however little research examines how these sources of knowledge might interact. Previous research suggests that 8-month-old infants can make inferences from samples to populations and 11-month-old infants can integrate psychological knowledge into this mechanism (Xu & Garcia, 2008; Xu & Denison, in press). Here we asked whether infants can integrate a physical constraint, namely, a violation of cohesion into this statistical inference mechanism. Infants succeeded at this in two ways: First, they were able to override statistical information in favor of domain-specific knowledge, reasoning that in some cases a physical constraint is more informative than probabilistic information. Second, they were able to integrate the constraint into the mechanism by using it to exclude a set of objects and then computing probabilities over two remaining sets.

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