Taylor Osman

Preschoolers Rationally Use Evidence to Select Casually Relevant Variables

This summer, under the guidance of my mentors, Professor Alison Gopnik and PhD student Mariel Goddu, I will be working with preschool-age kids to investigate how children select causally relevant variables in order to understand the world. Young children seem particularly good at recognizing, with very little evidence, what variables are casually relevant in a system, or in other words, what variables bring about some effect in a system. At preschools and museums, like the Bay Area Discovery Museum or the Lawrence Hall of Science, we have kids, with the permission of their parents, participate in studies that are engaging for them, like ones that center around turtles or magical wizards. Because children are often capable of discerning patterns before they are able put this understanding into words, we try to design studies that pick up on the amazing abilities kids have to understand the world — abilities that often go overlooked. Children’s causal reasoning is an especially interesting phenomenon to study because we still, as adults, constantly try to find causal relationships in the world. I have worked in the Gopnik lab for two years now, but I am really excited to begin new studies this summer and to find more reasons why I think children’s brains are amazing!

Message to Sponsor

I so deeply appreciate having been able to devote my summer working on new studies and investigating how children understand the world in ways similar to, and different from, the ways in which we understand the world as adults. I love going to preschools and museums to see what children think about the studies and to teach them about science and psychology. This is my last summer during my undergraduate career at Berkeley, after which I am doing a semester abroad in the Netherlands, and I can't imagine a way I would have rather spent my summer! Thank you so much.
  • Major: Cognitive Science and English
  • Mentor: Alison Gopnik, Psychology