CFI’s Monthly Lecture Meeting for June

When: Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, 7:00pm

Where: First Unitarian Church (Shadyside) Schweitzer Room, Ellsworth and Morewood Aves, Shadyside

The title of this months talk is “Evolutionary Psychology” and it is almost an imperative for anyone thinking about having or raising children.

Our speaker is David Rakison, Director of the Infant Cognition Lab at CMU. Here is his desciption of his talk:

“Whether or not infants’ earliest perception of the world is a “blooming, buzzing, confusion,” it is not long before they develop mental representations or concepts of the structure and order among the objects and events around them. Research in my lab focuses on studying how this is achieved. When and how do infants categorize perceptually different objects as the same and generalize from their experience to novel instances? When and how do infants learn about the motion properties of animates and inanimates such as self-propulsion, causality, and goal-directed action? How does infants’ actions in the world affect their emerging concepts? And how does conceptual change occur through the first years of life? I address these questions within an information-processing framework, although I also combine this approach with aspects of evolutionary Psychology. As a result, a focus of my research is to examine the extent to which early learning and development is underpinned by domain-specific or domain-general mechanisms.

The major approach I use to address these questions is to study the behavior of human infants. In most cases, I employ behavioral methodologies that make use of infants’ looking (e.g. habituation, visual preference) and action behavior (e.g. imitation). I also conduct research with very young children with autism and compare their conceptual development to that of typically developing infants. Finally, I develop computational models of early perceptual and conceptual development as a means of providing greater insight into the mechanisms of change in the first years of life.”

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