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Origins of Mind : 07

There is a wide range of evidence that four- and five-month-olds can track briefly occluded objects. Such evidence comes from infants’ reactions to a range of different scenarios. Some scenrios involve a comparision between the number of objects \citep[e.g.][]{spelke:1995_spatiotemporal}, others involve infants’ abilities to track the causal effects of unperceived objects \citep[e.g][]{baillargeon:1987_object}, while others require infants to track properties such as the shape and size of unperceived objects \citep[e.g.][]{wang:2004_young}, or to remember the location of a hidden object \citep[e.g.][]{wilcox:1996_location}.
The evidence also comes from studies using a variety of different methods including habituation \citep[e.g.][]{spelke:1995_spatiotemporal}, violation-of-expectations \citep[e.g.][]{wang:2004_young}, and anticipatory looking \citep[e.g.][]{rosander:2004_infants,bertenthal:2013_differential}.

4- to 6-month-olds can track briefly occluded objects

scenariomethodsource
1 vs 2 objects habituationSpelke et al 1995
one unperceived object constrains another’s movementhabituationBaillargeon 1987
where did I hide it?violation-of-expectationsWilcox et al 1996
wide objects can’t disappear behind a narrow occluderviolation-of-expectationsWang et al 2004
when and where will it reappear?anticipatory lookingRosander et al 2004
marker of object maintenancEEGKaufman et al 2005

I have described these findings as supporting a conclusion about tracking rather than about representing.
For a process to \emph{track} the path of an occluded object is for it to nonaccidentally depend in some way on the occluded object’s path: in an interesting but limited range of situations, changes to the object’s path will cause corresponding changes to how the process unfolds. Relatedly, to say that someone can track occluded objects is to say that there are processes in her (or otherwise appropriately involving her) which track the paths of some occluded objects.

How?

The fact that four- and five-month-olds can track briefly occluded objects raises a question. How do they do this?
occlusionendarkening
violation-of-expectations

Charles & Rivera (2009)

\emph{The CLSTX conjecture} Five-month-olds’ abilities to track occluded objects are not grounded on belief or knowledge: instead they are consequences of the operations of object indexes. \citep{Leslie:1998zk,Scholl:1999mi,Carey:2001ue,scholl:2007_objecta}.

The CLSTX conjecture:

Five-month-olds’ abilities to track briefly unperceived objects

are not grounded on belief or knowledge:

instead

they are consequences of the operations of

a system of object indexes.

Leslie et al (1989); Scholl and Leslie (1999); Carey and Xu (2001)

(‘CLSTX’ stands for Carey-Leslie-Scholl-Tremoulet-Xu \citep[see][]{Leslie:1998zk,Scholl:1999mi,Carey:2001ue,scholl:2007_objecta})

 

... and of a further, independent capacity to track physical objects which involves motor representations and processes.

This generates lots of predictions. For example, should be able to modulate object tracking of endarkened objects by interfering with, or boosting, motor cognition. But the same manipulations should not affect occlusion.

A Question:

What can object indexes explain?

[Q WILL BE: How does a difference in operations involving object indexes result in a difference in looking times?]
occlusionendarkening
violation-of-expectations

Charles & Rivera (2009)

How does help us with the puzzles?
Object indexes can survive occlusion but ...

Functions of object indexes:

✔ influence how attention is allocated

✔ guide ongoing actions (e.g. visual tracking, reaching)

✘ initiate purposive actions

The primary functions of object indexes include influencing the allocation of attention and perhaps guiding ongoing action. If this is right, it may be possible to explain anticipatory looking directly by appeal to the operations of object indexes. But the operations of object indexes cannot directly explain differences in how novel things are to an infant. And nor can the operations of object indexes directly explain why infants look longer at stimuli involving discrepancies in the physical behaviour of objects.

Wynn 1992, fig 1 (part)

We know that infants are likely to maintain object indexes for the two mice while they are occluded. Accordingly, when the screen drops in the condition labelled ‘impossible outcome’, there is an interruption to the normal operation of object indexes: infants have assigned two object indexes but there is only one object. But why does this cause infants to look longer at in the ‘impossible outcome’ condition than in the ‘possible outcome’ condition? How does a difference in operations involving object indexes result in a difference in looking times?
 
\section{metacognitive feelings Connect Object Indexes to Looking Behaviours}
 
\section{metacognitive feelings Connect Object Indexes to Looking Behaviours}

object index operations

? ? ? metacognitive feelings

patterns in looking durations

So those who, like me, are impressed by the evidence for the hypothesis that four- and five-month-olds’ abilities to track occluded objects are underpinned by the operations of a system of object indexes are left with a question. The question is, What links the operations of object indexes to patterns in looking duration?
I’ve just argued that it can’t be beliefs or knowledge states. So what is it?
I propose that answering both questions requires us to consider metacognitive feelings ...

metacognitive feelings ... allow a transition from the implicit-automatic mode to the explicit-controlled mode of operation.’

\citep[p.~150]{koriat:2000_feeling}

Koriat, 2000 p. 150

According to Koriat,
Koriat’s focus is adults, but his claim hints that metacognitive feelings might be relevant to understand why the early-developing, automatic belief-tracking process shapes looking duration.
But what are metacognitive feelings?
In thinking about this challenge it may be helpful to focus on the sense of agency.
It’s quite well established that there are feelings of agency, and these seem to arise from a number of cues including ...

Adapted from Sidarus & Haggard, 2016 figure 5

... comparison between outcomes represented motorically and outcomes detected sensorily and ...

Adapted from Sidarus & Haggard, 2016 figure 5

... the fluency of an action selection process (that is, the ease or difficulty involved in selecting one among several possible actions to perform motorically; this can be manipulated by, for example, providing helpful or misleading cues to action \citep{wenke:2010_subliminal,sidarus:2013_priming,sidarus:2017_how}).
The sense of agency is interesting to us because it serves to link two largely independent processes concerned with evaluating whether you are the agent of an event.
One involves detecting these cues ...
the other involves thinking about it, perhaps in the light of your background knowledge.
You can think about whether you are the agent of an event, you don’t need to go with your feelings. When someone asks you whether you felt you were in control, the right answer is to say ‘Well, I don’t know, this is a psychological experiment so there’s a good chance you were tricking me.’ [But despite all of the possible ways in which reflection on the question might lead to a variety of answers, people give replicable answers that seem to reflect fluency. Why? Because they’re answering on the basis of a feeling rather than on the basis of reflection.]
So what is this sense of agency?
First, it phenomenal rather than epistemic. It is an aspect of the phenomenal character of some experience associated with acting. So we can call it a feeling.
Second, it is metacognitive in the sense that it’s normal causes include processes which monitor action selection and production. So we can call it a \emph{metacognitive feeling}.
\footnote{Compare \citet[p.~310]{dokic:2012_seeds}: ‘the causal antecedents of noetic feelings can be said to be metacognitive insofar as they involve implicit monitoring mechanisms that are sensitive to non-intentional properties of first-order cognitive processes.’}
The sense of agency is far from the only metacognitive feeling. Consider a second illustration ... familiarity
Here is a face that I hope will seems familiar to most people. When you see this face, you have a feeling of familiarity. This feeling of familiarity is not just a matter of belief: even if you know for sure that you have never encountered the person depicted here (and trust me, you haven’t), the feeling of familiarity will persist. Nor is the feeling a matter of perceptual experience: you can’t perceptually experience familiarity any more than you can perceptually experience electricity.
What causes feelings of familiarity? Not familiarity as such, it turns out. Instead they are caused by the ease with which you can process the features of a face relative to difficulty of identifying the person. Roughly, the greater the discrepancy between fluency of processing and difficulty of identification, the stronger the feeling of familiarity.
So what is this feeling of familiarity?
First, it phenomenal. It is an aspect of the phenomenal character of some experience associated with acting. So we can call it a feeling.
Second, it is metacognitive in the sense that it’s normal causes include processes which monitor fluency of processing. So we can call it a \emph{metacognitive feeling}.% \footnote{Compare \citet[p.~310]{dokic:2012_seeds}: ‘the causal antecedents of noetic feelings can be said to be metacognitive insofar as they involve implicit monitoring mechanisms that are sensitive to non-intentional properties of first-order cognitive processes.’}
Third, it does not necessarily give rise to beliefs. As I mentioned, the feeling is not lessen even if you refuse to believe, as you should, that this person is actually familiar to you.
(The face is a composite of Bush and Obama. It is chosen to illustrate that the feeling of familiarity is not a consequence of how familiar things actually are; instead it may be a consequnece of the degree of fluency with which unconscious processes can identify perceived items \citep{Whittlesea:1993xk,Whittlesea:1998qj}. Learning a grammar can also generate feelings of familiarity. Subjects who have implicitly learned an artificial grammar report feelings of familiarity when they encounter novel stimuli that are part of the learnt grammar \citep{scott:2008_familiarity}. They are also not doomed to treat feelings of familiarity as being about actual familiarity: instead subjects can use feeling of familiarity in deciding whether a stimulus is from that grammar \citep{Wan:2008_familiarity}.)
I could go on to mention the feeling you have when someone’s eyes are boring into your back, or the feeling that a name is on the tip of your tongue. But let me focus just on the feelings associated with electricity and with familiarity. These feelings are paradigm cases of metacognitive feeling.
What is a metacognitive feeling? I think it’s a sensation. To illustrate,
contrast two sensory encounters with this wire. In the first you visually experience the wire as having a certain shape. In the second you receive an electric shock from the wire without seeing or touching it.% \footnote{This illustration is borrowed from Campbell (2002: 133–4); I use it to support a claim weaker than his.} The first sensory encounter involves perceptual experience as of a property of the wire whereas, intuitively, the second does not. I take this intuition to be correct.% \footnote{ Notice that the intuition is not that the shock involves no perceptual experience at all, only that the shock does not involve perceptual experience as of any property of the wire. Notice also that the intuition concerns what a perceptual experience is as of, and not directly what is represented in perception. The relation between these two is arguably not straightforward (compare, e.g., \citet[p.~28]{Shoemaker:1994el} or \citet[pp.~50--2]{Chalmers:2006xq} on distinguishing representational from phenomenal content). }
The intuition is potentially revealing because the electric shock involves rich phenomenology, and its particular phenomenal character depends in part on properties of its cause (changes in the strength of the electric current would have resulted in an encounter with different phenomenal character). So there are sensory encounters which, despite having phenomenal characters that depend in part on which properties are encountered, are not perceptual experiences as of those properties.
Let me give you two more illustrations [bushObama and Wynn’s magic mice]. ...
All three examples (the feelings of magic, of electricity and of familiarity) show that:

Metacognitive feelings

There are aspects of the overall phenomenal character of experiences which their subjects take to be informative about things that are only distantly related (if at all) to the things that those experiences intentionally relate the subject to.

To illustrate, having a feeling of familiarity is not a matter of standing in any intentional relation to the property of familiarity, but it is something that we can interpret as informative about famility.
Metacognitive feelings are these aspects of experience.
Why accept this? You cannot perceive familiarity or agency any more than you can perceive electricity. Perceptual processes do not reach far back into your past, nor are they concerned with questions about whether you are the agent of an action. So to think that metacognitive feelings intentionally relate you to facts about familiarity or agency requires postulating a novel kind of sensory process, some kind of inner or bodily sense. While justification for postulating a novel inner sense may ultimately be discovered, I don’t think there is currently anything to justify this.
[EITHER] To see why we are not justified in postulating a novel inner sense, it is worth recalling Reid’s theory of sensations. [OR] But this is right, why do metacognitive feelings invite judgements? Why does the feeling of familiarity even so much as nudge you to judge that the face photographed here is familiar to you? (This is roughly \citet{dokic:2012_seeds}’s question.)
[Key point to stress there is just that metacognitive feelings are not intentional states, they are not representations, they have no content. [Or if they do have content, it’s not related to the things we take them to be associated with, like familiarity or electricity.] They are blank sensations. Compare the sensation associated with an electrical shock. It’s not a perception of electricity.]

Metacognitive feelings

can be thought of as

sensations.

metacognitive feelings can be thought of as sensations in approximately Reid’s sense.% \footnote{ \citet{Reid:1785cj,Reid:1785nz}. Even if you don’t believe that there are sensations in Reid’s sense, thinking of metacognitive feelings as if they were sensations will serve to illustrate their characteristic features. The main points that follow are consistent with several different ways of thinking about metacognitive feelings. For instance, you might take the view that what I am calling metacognitive feelings are perceptual experiences of the body or of bodily reactions, or that they involve some kind of cognitive phenomenology. The essential claim is just that the metacognitive feelings associated with the operations of object indexes are not constituted by states which involve intentional relations to any of the things which are assigned an object index. }

Sensations are

  1. monadic properties of perceptual experiences
  2. individuated by their normal causes
  3. (so they do not involve an intentional relation)
  4. which alter the overall phenomenal character of those experiences
  5. in ways not determined by the experiences’ contents.
Sensations are: \begin{enumerate} \item monadic properties of events, specifically perceptual experiences, \item individuated by their normal causes% %{Tye, 1984 #[email protected]} ---in the case of feelings of familiarity, its normal cause is ease of processing \item which alter the overall phenomenal character of those experiences \item in ways not determined by the experiences’ contents (so two perceptual experiences can have the same content while one has a sensational property which the other lacks). \end{enumerate}

metacognitive feelings trigger beliefs only via associations.

An important consequence is that metacognitive feelings can lead to beliefs only via associations or further beliefs. They are signs which need to be interpreted by their subjects (\citealp[Essay~II, Chap.~16, p.~228]{Reid:1785cj} \citealp[Chap.~VI sect.~III, pp.~164–5]{Reid:1785nz}). Let me explain.
As a scientist, you can pick out the feeling of familiarity as that metacognitive feeling which is normally caused by the degree to which certain processes are fluent. But as the subject of who has that metacognitive feeling, you do not necessarily know what its typical causes are. This is something you have to work out in whatever ways you work out the causes of any other type of event.
(Contrast metacognitive feelings with perceptual experiences. Having a perceptual experience of, say, a wire’s shape, involves standing in an intentional relation to the wire’s shape; and the phenomenal character of this perceptual experience is specified by this intentional relation.% \footnote{ Compare \citet[p.~380]{Martin:2002yx}: ‘I attend to what it is like for me to inspect the lavender bush through perceptually attending to the bush itself.’ And \citet[p.~211]{byrne:2001_intentionalism} ‘subject can only discover the phenomenal character of her experience by attending to the world ... as her experience represents it.’ } Such perceptual experiences are often held to reveal the wire’s shape to the subject and so lead directly to beliefs.% \footnote{ Compare \citet[p.~222]{Johnston:1992zb}: ‘[j]ustified belief … is available simply on the basis of visual perception’; \citet[p.~143–4]{Tye:1995oa}: ‘Phenomenal character “stands ready … to make a direct impact on beliefs’; and \citet[p.~291]{Smith:2001iz}: ‘[p]erceptual experiences are … intrinsically … belief-inducing.’ })
(By contrast, having a metacognitive feeling concerning familiarity or an physical object’s path does not involve standing in any intentional relation to these things. The metacognitive feeling is individuated by its normal causes, rather than by any intentional relation. And a metacognitive feeling leads to belief, if at all, only indirectly. For learning is required in order for the subject to come to a view on what tends to cause the metacognitive feeling.)
metacognitive feelings have been quite widely neglected in philosophy and developmental psychology. They are a means by which cognitive processes enable perceivers to acquire dispositions to form beliefs about objects’ properties which are reliably true. metacognitive feelings provide a low-cost but efficient bridge between non-conscious cognitive processes and conscious reasoning.
This, anyway, is why I think that

metacognitive feelings

Thereare aspects of the overall phenomenal character of experiences which their subjects take to be informative about things that are only distantly related (if at all) to the things that those experiences intentionally relate the subject to.

Wynn 1992, fig 1 (part)

What is a metacognitive feeling? Consider a third (and final) illustration.
Recall this situation. Suppose you have seen it a hundred times before, so you know just what to expect. Still, the tendancy to expect two objects is on some level barely diminished, and event in which a single object is revealled is liable to feel magical in some small way. This feeling of magic is a metacognitive feeling.

feeling of surprise

There is a feeling of surprise which has features characteristic metacognitive feelings.

‘the intensity of felt surprise is [...] influenced by [...]
the degree of the event’s interference with ongoing mental activity’

Reisenzein et al, 2000 p. 271; cf. Touroutoglou & Efklides, 2010

In particular,
‘the intensity of felt surprise is not only influenced by the unexpectedness of the surprising event, but also by the degree of the event’s interference with ongoing mental activity, [...] the effect of unexpectedness on surprise is [...] partly mediated by mental interference’ \citep[p.~271]{reisenzein2000subjective}
That is, the feeling of surprise is a sensational consequence of mental interference. (This can be tested by increasing cognitive load: this intensifies feelings of surprise without, of course, making the events themselves more suprirsing. But see \citep{reisenzein:2017_cognitiveevolutionary} for an alternative interpretation of such findings.)
So whereas the feelings of agency and familiarity are both consequences of unexpected fluency of processing, the feeling of surprise is supposed to be the opposite: it is a consequence of unexpected interference in processes.
\footnote{% An alterantive is proposed by \citet[p.~79]{foster:2015_whya}: ‘the MEB theory of surprise posits that: Experienced surprise is a metacognitive assessment of the cognitive work carried out to explain an outcome. Very surprising events are those that are difficult to explain, while less surprising events are those which are easier to explain.’ \citet{foster:2015_whya} is about reactions to reading about something unexpected, whereas \citet{reisenzein2000subjective} measures how people experience unexpected events (changes to stimuli while solving a problem). The latter is much closer to what I’m after. }

object index operations

? ? ? metacognitive feelings

patterns in looking durations

So my question was how the operations of object indexes might explain patterns of looking duration in habituation and violation-of-expectation experiments.
My guess is that some operations of object indexes give rise to metacognitive feelings, which in turn influence looking durations.

Objection

If object index operations produce metacognitive feelings,

wouldn’t these generate knowledge about object locations?

(And so generate the incorrect predictions that flow from ascribing knowledge of object locations?)

Reply: (a) metacognitive feelings are of surprise, not of particular locations. The feelings do not specify anything about what caused them; (b) in any case, the feelings do not necessarily trigger beliefs at all ...
You can choose to interpret the feeling differently. You are not presented with familiarity in the way that you are presented with, say, circularity.

object index operations

? ? ? metacognitive feelings

patterns in looking durations

So my question was how the operations of object indexes might explain patterns of looking duration in habituation and violation-of-expectation experiments.
My guess is that some operations of object indexes give rise to metacognitive feelings, which in turn influence looking durations.

conclusion

I started this talk by posing two related questions ...
My first questino was, What is the nature of infants’ earliest cognition of physical objects?

Q1 What is the nature of infants’ earliest cognition of physical objects?

The leading answer is that involves a ‘third type’ of representation, something distinct from perception and knowledge

‘there is a third type of conceptual structure,
dubbed “core knowledge” ...
that differs systematically from both
sensory/perceptual representation[s] ... and ... knowledge.’

Carey, 2009 p. 10

I have questioned this ...
I think the Crude Picture of the Mind is surprisingly useful in getting a fix on developmental discrepancies, particularly compared to theories which postulate either knowledge (incorrect predictions) or core knowledge (no predictions).
Contra the view suggested by Carey, it seems that, at least in the domain of physical objects, there is no need to postulate ‘core knowledge’ as something distinct from the epistemic, motoric and perceptual

Crude Picture of the Mind

  • epistemic
    (knowledge states)
  • broadly motoric
    (motor representations of outcomes and affordances)
  • broadly perceptual
    (visual, tactual, ... representations; object indexes ...)
  • metacognitive feelings
    (connect the motoric and perceptual to knowledge)
  • I also think the importance of metacognitive feelings may have been overlooked.
    When it comes to explaining how different bits of the mind interact, or how knowledge emerges in development, we need metacognitive feelings because, aside from effects on behaviour and control of attention, \textbf{it is only metacognitive feelings that connect the motoric and perceptual to knowledge}.
    Metacognitive feelings have been quite widely neglected in philosophy and developmental psychology. They are a means by which cognitive processes enable perceivers to acquire dispositions to form beliefs about objects’ properties which are reliably true. Metacognitive feelings provide a low-cost but efficient bridge between non-conscious cognitive processes and conscious reasoning.

‘if you want to describe what is going on in the head of the child when it has a few words which it utters in appropriate situations, you will fail for lack of the right sort of words of your own.

‘We have many vocabularies for describing nature when we regard it as mindless, and we have a mentalistic vocabulary for describing thought and intentional action; what we lack is a way of describing what is in between

(Davidson 1999, p. 11)

In the case of objects, we had some success by identifying psychological mechanisms that are responsible for adult cognition and then working back to the infants.
Davidson is wrong we do not lack vocabularies ... cognitive science already provides them (object indexes, motor representations, metacognitive feelings ...).

What is in between:

object indexes

motor representations

metacognitive feelings

...

One moral: If we want to understand the developing mind, it is often useful to think about forms of adult cognition which are more primitive than knowledge and belief.
... But how might appealing to these capacities enable us to explain the developmental emergence of knowledge? We are still very far from an explanation!
The other question I mentioned at the start of this talk was, How do you get from these early forms of cognition to knowledge of simple facts about particular physical objects?

Q2 How do you get from these early forms of cognition to knowledge of simple facts about particular physical objects?

The Assumption of Representational Connections

The transition involves operations on the contents of representations, which transform them into (components of) the contents of knowledge states.

On any standard view,
\emph{The Assumption of Representational Connections}: the transition from early forms of cognition (core knowledge?) to knowledge proper involves operations on the contents of representations, which transform them into (components of) the contents of knowledge states.
Metacognitive feelings are \emph{intentional isolators}: that is, they are states which can causally link representations but have no intentional objects.

Conjecture

Let me offer you a conjecture which I have not argued for but which is perhaps tempting given the difficulty of identifying ways in which processes interact ...
Only metacognitive feelings
(and behaviours, and other intentional isolators)
connect early-developing processes for tracking objects, causes, actions and minds
to the epistemic.
Metacognitive feelings have been quite widely neglected in philosophy and developmental psychology. But they are important as a means by which cognitive processes enable thinkers to acquire dispositions to form reliably true beliefs about objects. More generally, metacognitive feelings provide a low-cost but efficient link from otherwise mostly inaccessible cognitive processes to thought. When it comes to explaining how different bits of the mind interact, and how knowledge emerges in development, we need metacognitive feelings because {it is only metacognitive feelings (and behaviours and other intentional isolators) that connect the motoric and perceptual to knowledge}. And this is a reason for thinking that cognitive development is a process of (re)discovery.
I mentioned earlier Koriat’s proposal that

metacognitive feelings ... allow a transition from the implicit-automatic mode to the explicit-controlled mode of operation.’

\citep[p.~150]{koriat:2000_feeling}

Koriat, 2000 p. 150

Although he wasn’t talking about development, I think we can see that there’s something to this.
Metacognitive feelings have a dual role. By triggering ‘stop-and-think’ responses to events which interfere with automatic processing, they may create opportunities for learning.
But because they are intentional isolators, they also serve to keep the later-developing, less automatic processes separate from the more automatic, early-developing processes.
So they both ‘allow a transition’ of one kind and prevent a transition of another kind.

synchronic

diachronic

object index operations

metacognitive feelings

patterns in looking durations

So my question was how the operations of object indexes might explain patterns of looking duration in habituation and violation-of-expectation experiments. My guess is that some operations of object indexes give rise to metacognitive feelings, which in turn influence looking durations.

object indexes + metacognitive feelings

? ? ?

knowledge of objects

\section{Development Is Rediscovery}
This guess gives rise to a further question (which I want to articulate but won’t attempt to answer). In asking how the operations of object indexes might give rise to patterns in looking duration, we have been concerned with what happens a short interval of time. But the guess about metacognitive feelings raises a question about the course of development in the first months or years of life. Let me explain.
In the beginning Spelke and others conjectured that infants’ abilities to track briefly occluded objects were a consequence of their having core knowledge for objects. This conjecture is related to the later hypothesis about object indexes. The idea is that we can further specify the mechanisms that realise infants’ core knowledge of physical objects by identifying it with two things: a system of object indexes and a system capable of representing physical objects motorically.
So core knowledge of objects is not one thing but three: it is realised by (i) a system of object indexes; (ii) associated metacognitive feelings and (iii) a capacity to represent affordances motorically.
There was always a question about how infants’ core knowledge about objects might explain the emergence of knowledge knowledge (that is, knowledge proper) about objects. Now this question becomes, What is the role of a system of object indexes in the emergence in development of knowledge of physical objects? In short, How do you get from object indexes to knowledge?
Answers to these questions typically rely on \emph{The Assumption of Representational Connections}: the transition involves operations on the contents of core knowledge states, which transform them into (components of) the contents of knowledge states.
This Assumption is required by almost any current account of the developmental emergence of knowledge. It is required, for example, by Spelke’s suggestion that mature understanding of objects, number, and mind derives from core knowledge by virtue of core knowledge representations being assembled \citep{Spelke:2000nf}; claims by Leslie and others that modules provide conceptual identifications of their inputs \citep{Leslie:1988ct}; Karmiloff-Smith’s representational re-description \citep{Karmiloff-Smith:1992lv}; and Mandler’s claim that ‘the earliest conceptual functioning consists of a redescription of perceptual structure’ \citep{Mandler:1992vn}.
But the Assumption of Representational Connections requires, of course, that core knowledge provides a conceptual identification of objects and some of their properties such as location or size, or at least that it involves standing in some kind of intentional relation to these things.
[Key point is that since metacognitive feelings don’t have [relevant] content, direct representational connections between core knowledge and knowledge proper are impossible.]
But recall the guess about metacognitive feelings linking object indexes to patterns of looking duration. If this guess is right, then it is not true that core knowledge provides a conceptual identification of objects. And it is not true that having core knowledge involves standing in any kind of intentional relation to objects and their properties. This means that we must reject Assumption of Representational Connections. And rejecting this Assumption makes the question about development particularly difficult to answer.
It means that rather than assembing or redescribing representations, development must be a process of rediscovery.
The step from metacognitive feelings to knowledge is like the step from feeling electric shocks to understanding electricity. So coming to know simple facts about particular physical objects may begin with object indexes and the metacognitive feelings these give rise to, but it does not end there. Interpreting the metacognitive feelings may involve interacting with objects, learning to use tools, and perhaps interacting with others and objects simultaneously.
Coming to know facts about physical objects is a matter of rediscovering things already implicit in a system of object indexes.
Some might object that development can’t require such rediscovery because it would be hopelessly inefficient to require things already encoded to be learnt anew. But rediscovery is an elegant solution to a practical problem. If you are building a survival system you want quick and dirty heuristics that are good enough to keep it alive: you don’t necessarily care about the truth. If, by contrast, you are building a thinker, you want her to be able to think things that are true irrespective of their survival value. This cuts two ways. On the one hand, you want the thinker’s thoughts not to be constrained by heuristics that ensure her survival. On the other hand, in allowing the thinker freedom to pursue the truth there is an excellent chance she will end up profoundly mistaken %(Malebranche?) or deeply confused %(Hegel?) about the nature of physical objects. So you don’t want thought contaminated by survival heuristics and you don’t want survival heuristics contaminated by thought. Or, even if some contamination is inevitable, you want to limit it. %So you want inferential isolation. This combination is beautifully achieved by giving your thinker a system or some systems for tracking objects and their interactions which appear early in development, and also a mind which allows her to acquire knowledge of physical objects gradually over months or years, taking advantage of interactions with objects as well as social interactions about objects—providing, of course, that the two are not directly connected but rather linked only very loosely, via metacognitive feelings.
Of course, if the Assumption of Representational Connectedness is wrong and development is rediscovery, then core knowledge can only play a relatively modest role in explaining the developmental acquisition of knowledge. Instead, simple froms of social interaction, perhaps including referential communication or even communication by language will play a key role in the developmental emergence of knowledge of simple facts about physical objects. And of course they can only do this if abilities for social interactions including communication do not already presuppose such knowledge.
But this is a topic for further inquiry. For now, I mainly want to sugggest that we must either reject my claim that core knowledge influences its subject only through modifications of the body, of behaviour and attention and of phenomenology or else face up to the challenge of explaining how development could be a process, not of recycling representations already available in the very first months of life, but of rediscovery.
And,

Development is (re)discovery.

[Key point is that since metacognitive feelings don’t have [relevant] content, direct representational connections are impossible.