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Bridging the gap between children’s causal and scientific reasoning

Guest lectures held by Dave Sobel, Ph.D. Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University


Dave SobelOn behalf of the international doctoral school REASON, we are very happy to announce the upcoming visit of Dave Sobel PhD from Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University.

Prof. Sobel will be holding two guest lectures:

Bridging the gap between children’s causal and scientific reasoning

Thursday, 18.10.2018, 14:00 c.t. – 16:00, Location Room 3221

There is a long literature that suggests young children, and even infants, have sophisticated causal reasoning abilities. There is an equally long literature that suggests it is not until age 6 at the earliest that children begin to engage in scientific reasoning – particularly in terms of relating hypotheses to data. In this talk, I will describe these literatures, and present two lines of evidence that attempt to bridge the gap. The first is a set of laboratory-based projects that focus on conceptual differences between causal and scientific reasoning and how certain methodological factors potentially explain why scientific reasoning might be difficult for young children and what could be done to improve these capacities. The second is a set of observations based on parent-child interaction at a children’s museum. Parents and children were observed playing at exhibits, and we examined the systematicity of their play, and how that systematicity related to their engagement with learning science and their learning outcomes.

Perspectives frame children's prosocial behavior

Wednesday, 17.10.2018, 14:00 c.t. – 16:00, Location TBA

In this talk, I will introduce several lines of research that focus on the perspective taking capacities of 3- to 8-year-olds and how those capacities might affect their prosocial behavior. I first consider judgments about first- and third-person frames of knowledge specifically related to compliance with others’ unfair intentions and find that children’s ability to engage in affective perspective taking relates to whether they will be knowledgeably selfish in first-person but not third-person resource distribution measures. Next, I consider children’s trust in others based on the way in which an act of giving is framed and find that children interpret acts of generosity under different social norms than acts of resource allocation. Finally, I will present evidence that perspective-taking relates to the way in which children resolve inequities. Together, these data suggest that children’s developing perspective taking capacities make an important contribution to the way in which they adhere to social norms involving sharing and trust.


Short Bio
Dave Sobel grew up in New York. He received his B.A. in Psychology and Computer Science from Swarthmore College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California. He was hired at Brown University in 2001 and is currently a Professor of Cognitive Science and Psychology in the Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences Department. For most of his career, he has studied how children represent and learn causal knowledge, and how children understand the world and learn from others through their developing social cognition. Since 2003, he has collaborated with Providence Children's Museum on a variety of projects, most notably Mind Lab - a permanent exhibit at the museum dedicated to teaching families to learn about learning. His work has been funded by NSF and NIH. He is married with two children, who constantly remind him what is important.

We are looking forward to welcoming many interested participants!

Please register for participation at