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\title {Origins of Mind \\ Lecture 09}
 
\maketitle
 

Origins of Mind

Lecture 09

\def \ititle {Lecture 09}
\begin{center}
{\Large
\textbf{\ititle}
}
 
\iemail %
\end{center}
backgroundLayer 1understandingactionunderstandingmindsjointactionreferentialcommunicationcommunicationwith words
 
\section{Pointing}
 
\section{Pointing}

Liszkowski et al 2004, figure 2

Infants spontaneously point from around 12 months.
Here is a situation in which a child is playing at her table. Then something appears from behind a sheet. The infant spontaneously points at it.

why?

Infants point to intiate joint engagement Liszkowski et al 2006.

Why do infants point?

Liszkowski’s idea: find out by seeing what satisfies them.

hypotheses:

  1. for themselves

    (prediction: ignoring them makes no difference)

  2. to draw attention to themselves

    (prediction: looking at them is sufficient to satisfy them)

  3. to direct attention only

    (prediction: looking at the referent is sufficient)

  4. to initiate joint engagement

    (prediction: looking at them and the reference is sufficient)

‘Four hypotheses about what infants want when they point were tested. First, on the hypothesis that infants pointed for themselves (see above), E neither attended to the infant nor to the event (Ignore condition). Second, on Moore and D’Entremont’s (2001) hypothesis that infants do not want to direct attention and just want to obtain attention to themselves, E never looked at the event and instead attended to the infant’s face and emoted positively to it (Face condition). Third, on the hypothesis that infants just wanted to direct attention and nothing else, E only attended to the events (Event condition). Fourth, on our hypothesis that infants want to share attention and interest, E responded to an infant’s point by alternating gaze between the event and the infant, emoting positively about it (Joint Attention condition).’ \citep{Liszkowski:2007mm}
‘When interacting with an adult who always reacted consistently in one of four ways, 12-month-olds pointed most often across trials if the adult actively shared her attention and interest in the event (Joint Attention condition)’ \citep[p.\ 305]{liszkowski:2004_twelve}
‘Analyses of infants’ points within each event revealed a complementary set of results. In the conditions not involving joint attention, infants repeated their point more often. This repeating behavior presumably indic- ates that they were dissatisfied with the adult’s response, and so they were persisting in their pointing behavior hoping eventually to obtain the desired response (which was presumably joint attention, since children did not repeat themselves very often in this condition).’ \citep{Liszkowski:2007mm}
Now imagine an experiment with four conditions. In each condition, there are several trials involving something appearing and, hopefully, the infant pointing at it. So how do the conditions differ?
In one condition, the experimenter ignores the infant when she points.
In another condition, the experimenter looks at the infant only.
What predictions should we make?
If infants point to draw attention to themselves, what can we predict?
They should be more satisfied in these conditions.
They should be less satisfied in these conditions.
But how can we measure satisfaction?
Within a trial: less satisfied with response should lead to more pointing.
Across all trials: more satisfied with responses should make it more likely that pointing will occur in a trial (at least once).
If infants point to initiate joint engagement, what should we expect then?
Satisfied in this condition and not in any other.
So here's the setup again (but schematically this time).

Liszkowski et al 2004, figure 1

And here is the first key finding: more pointing overall (across trials) when there's joint attention.
[*todo: redraw Ulf's figures and put this & next on one slide]

Liszkowski et al 2004, figure 3

And here is the second key finding: less pointing within a trials when there's joint attention.

Liszkowski et al 2004, figure 4

12-month-old infants point not only to request but also to initiate joint engagement.

(And to inform.)

Why is this significant? Because it implies two things: First, it implies that infants' pointing is referential communication; that is, communication about an object. (Contrast sharing a smile; we're communicating, but not necessarily referring.) Second, it implies that infants have some understanding of joint engagement. I'll come back to this in later.
 

Pointing: Reference and Context

 
\section{Pointing: Reference and Context}
 
\section{Pointing: Reference and Context}

From around 11 or 12 months of age, humans spontaneously use pointing to ...

  • request
  • inform
  • initiate joint engagement (‘Wow! That!’)

Why is this significant? Because it implies two things: First, it implies that infants' pointing is referential communication; that is, communication about an object. (Contrast sharing a smile; we're communicating, but not necessarily referring.) Second, it implies that infants have some understanding of joint engagement.

How do infants understand pointing actions?

Explain this in terms of models.

Hypothesis 1: Pure use (compare block & slab).

‘Let us imagine a language for which the description given by Augustine is right. [...]

A is building with building-stones: there are blocks, pillars, slabs and beams.

B has to pass the stones, and that in the order in which A needs them.

For this purpose they use a language consisting of the words ‘block’, ‘pillar’, ‘slab’, ‘beam’.

A calls them out; B brings the stone which he has learnt to bring at such-and-such a call.’

Wittgenstein (1953, §2)

Can we think of infant pointing on this model, just as a bit more sophisticated in that the pointing gesture picks out different objects on different occasions?
What are the limits of this picture? (a) there is a fixed thing that people do in response to pointing. (b) the context of the activity in which the pointing occurs is fixed (it’s building).
The \emph{block--slab} model of infant pointing \citep[compare][§2]{Wittgenstein:1953mm}: (a) the activity occurs in a fixed context (e.g. buliding) and (b) there is a fixed thing to be done in response to a point.

How do infants understand pointing actions?

Hypothesis 1: Pure use (compare block & slab).

Do you think the pure use (block and slab) hypothesis is plausible? Why?

From around 11 or 12 months of age, humans spontaneously use pointing to ...

  • request
  • inform
  • initiate joint engagement (‘Wow! That!’)

Let's have a look at the evidence for informative pointing.

Liszkowski et al 2008, figure 3

Liszkowski et al 2008, figure 3

Liszkowski et al 2008, figure 5

Subjects are 12-month olds. Fig. 5. Experiment 2. Mean proportion of trials with a point in the experimental (E is ignorant) and control (E is knowledgeable) conditions.

From around 11 or 12 months of age, humans spontaneously use pointing to ...

  • request
  • inform
  • initiate joint engagement (‘Wow! That!’)

Why is this significant? Because it implies that infant pointing is not just a matter of getting you to do things for the infant, nor of getting you to do things with the infant. Instead it can be used where the infant has no expectation that you will do anything with or for the infant. And this matters because it constrains how an infant could understand pointing.

How do infants understand pointing actions?

Hypothesis 1: Pure use (compare block & slab).

The fact that infants can point to request, inform and initiate joint attention shows that the simple block & slab model is wrong because that is a model where communicative actions have a fixed purpose, and pointing does not. It seems to rule out the block & slab model.
Recall that there were two limits on block & slab: (a) fixed purpose and (b) fixed context. We've seen that (a) pointing does not have a fixed purpose. What about fixed context? A further finding bears on this ...
I want to say a tiny bit more on what is involved in understanding a pointing gesture. Suppose that we are doing puzzle. Then if I point to a piece, I probably intend you to do something with it in the context of our activity. By contrast, if we are tidying up, a point to the same object might mean something different. So:
Comprehending pointing is not just a matter of locking onto the thing pointed to; it also involves some sensitivity to context \citep[see][]{Liebal:2010lr}.
This is nicely brought out in a study by Christina Liebel and others ...
\subsection{Pointing: referent and context}

pointing: referent and context

Liebal et al 2009, figure 1

Liebal et al 2009, figure 2

18-month-olds can do this, but 14-month-olds can't. (Don't infer anything from null result.)

Liebal et al 2009, figure 3

Liebal et al 2009, figure 4

Here are the results of another study from the same paper, Study 2. ‘In this study, in each of two conditions infants shared a clean-up game involving multiple different objects with an experimenter (E1). At the end of this game, depending on the condition, either E1 or a different experimenter (E2), with whom infants had not shared any relevant experience, pointed toward a new object. If infants understood the situation correctly, they should clean up this new object when E1 pointed but not when E2 pointed.’
On this simplified measure, the results show that 14 month olds are interepreting pointing in context.
‘Already by age 14 months, then, infants interpret communication cooperatively, from a shared rather than an egocentric perspective’ \citep[p.\ 269]{Liebal:2010lr}.
‘The fact that infants rely on shared experience even to interpret others’ nonverbal pointing gestures suggests that this ability is not specific to language but rather reflects a more general social-cognitive, pragmatic understanding of human cooperative communication’ \citep[p.\ 270]{Liebal:2010lr}.

How do infants understand pointing actions?

Hypothesis 1: Pure use (compare block & slab).

Recall that there were two limits on block & slab: (a) fixed purpose and (b) fixed context.
Since infant pointing is subject to neither fixed limit, that can't be how infants understand pointing.
Let's see what the experts say about how infants understand pointing ...
 

A Puzzle about Pointing

 
\section{A Puzzle about Pointing}
 
\section{A Puzzle about Pointing}

How do infants understand pointing actions?

Explain this in terms of models.

Hypothesis 2: shared intentionality

This is Tomasello et al's hypothesis.
Observe the quotes: I'm doubtful that there is any such thing as shared intentionality, but I have to suspend belief in order to try to work out what their view is.
By the way, this is related to the essay topic on shared intentionality.
Tomasello takes infants' pointing to be based on what he calls shared intentionality.

shared intentionality

‘infant pointing is best understood---on many levels and in many ways---as depending on uniquely human skills and motivations for cooperation and shared intentionality, which enable such things as joint intentions and joint attention in truly collaborative interactions with others (Bratman, 1992; Searle, 1995).’

Tomasello et al (2007, p. 706)

\citep[p.\ 706]{Tomasello:2007fi}
I don't want to pursue this here; I'm just mentioning it because you might want to draw on pointing in your seminar essays.
Instead I want to ask in a simpler way, how should we understand pointing as other non-linguistic forms of communication?
To approach this question, it's helpful to compare and contrast humans with other, nonhuman apes.
Here is a beautifully simple story. Humans are highly cooperative from birth. Being highly cooperative enables them to communicate, linguistically and non-linguistically. Being able to communicate in turn enables them to acquire knowledge of minds, physical objects, numbers and the rest. This is a beautiful story and conceptually simple. Of course the challenge is to get from the story to the details.
But Tomasello doesn't stick with the simple story. Instead ...
There is this additional element, shared intentionality. I don't understand what it is, but Tomasello and his colleagues are extraordinay scientsits so I think it's worth exploring.
That's it for now: all I want to do is highlight that our thinking about pointing is going to connect with questions about shared intentionality.
But why suppose that ‘infant pointing is best understood … is best understood … as depending on … shared intentionality’?
It's goingt to take a while to answer this question ...

Why suppose this?

Hare & Tomasello, 2004

There is a need to contrast understanding action with understanding pointing. After all, there are subjects (chimpanzees) who can comprehend a failed reach but not a pointing action. How does understanding these actions, the failed reach and the pointing action differ? Moll and Tomasello offer a view ...
In this experiment, we contrast failed reaches with pointing ... Hare and Call (\citeyear{hare_chimpanzees_2004}) contrast pointing with a failed reach as two ways of indicating which of two closed containers a reward is in. Chimps can easily interpret a failed reach but are stumped by the point to a closed container. You are the subjects. This is what you saw (two conditions). Your task was to choose the container with the reward. Infants can do this sort of task, it's really easy for them \citep{Behne:2005qh}. (And, incidentally, they distinguish communicative points from similar but non-communicative bodily configurations.) The pictures in the figure stand for what participants, who were chimpanzees, saw. The question was whether participants would be able to work out which of two containers concealed a reward. In the condition depicted in the left panel, participants saw a chimpanzee trying but failing to reach for the correct container. Participants had no problem getting the reward in this case, suggesting that they understood the goal of the failed reach. In the condition depicted in the right panel, a human pointed at the correct container. Participants did not get the reward in this case as often as in the failed reach case, suggesting that they failed to understand the goal of the pointing action. (Actually the apes were above chance in using the point, just better in the failed reach condition. Hare et al comment ;chimpanzees can learn to exploit a pointing cue with some experience, as established by previous research (Povinelli et al. 1997; Call et al. 1998, 2000), and so by the time they engaged in this condition they had learned to use arm extension as a discriminative cue to the food’s location' \citep[p.\ 578]{hare_chimpanzees_2004}.)% \footnote{% The contrast between the two conditions is not due merely to the fact that one involves a human and the other a chimpanzee. Participants were also successful when the failed reach was executed by a human rather than another chimpanzee \citep[][experiment 1]{hare_chimpanzees_2004}. }
\textbf{Note that} chimpanzees do follow the point to a container \citep[see][p.\ 6]{Moll:2007gu}.

‘to understand pointing, the subject needs to understand more than the individual goal-directed behaviour. She needs to understand that by pointing towards a location, the other attempts to communicate to her where a desired object is located’

\citep[p.\ 6]{Moll:2007gu}.

Moll & Tomasello, 2007 p. 6

\subsection{pointing vs linguistic communication}
‘the most fundamental aspects of language that make it such a uniquely powerful form of human cognition and communication---joint attention, reference via perspectives, reference to absent entities, cooperative motives to help and to share, and other embodiments of shared intentionality---are already present in the humble act of infant pointing.’ \citep[p.\ 719]{Tomasello:2007fi}
‘cooperative communication does not depend on language, […] language depends on it.’ \citep[p.\ 720]{Tomasello:2007fi}
‘Pointing may […] represent a key transition, both phylogenetically and ontogenetically, from nonlinguistic to linguistic forms of human communication.’ \citep[p.\ 720]{Tomasello:2007fi}
 
\section{What is a communicative action?}
 
\section{What is a communicative action?}

What is a communicative action?

(What does someone understand when she understands that another communicates with her?)

Let’s start with some a example of communicative action ...

Ayesha waves at Ben to get him to come over.

In this example, Ayesha’s goal is to get Ben to come over. Her means of achieving this is to get Ben to recognise that this is what she intends. So when she waves, her intention is that waving will let Ben know that she intends him to come over.

Goal: get Ben to come over

Means: get Ben to recognise that I intend to get Ben to come over

Intention: to get Ben to come over by means of getting Ben to recognise that I intend to get Ben to come over.

You can achieve some things just by letting people know that you intend to achieve them. To achieve things in this way is to perform an act of communication.
Note that, on this Gricean view, communicating involves having intentions about intentions.

What is a communicative action?

First approximation: An action done with an intention to provide someone with evidence of an intention with the further intention of thereby fulfilling that intention

(compare Grice 1989: chapter 14)

Hare & Tomasello, 2004

‘to understand pointing, the subject needs to understand more than the individual goal-directed behaviour. She needs to understand that by pointing towards a location, the other attempts to communicate to her where a desired object is located’

Moll & Tomasello, 2007 p. 6

Let’s try to apply this idea to our pointing study ...
What is the confederate doing if she's pointing to inform?

First approximation: An action done with an intention to provide someone with evidence of an intention with the further intention of thereby fulfilling that intention

(compare Grice 1989: chapter 14)

Recall the comprehension of pointing case; what is the confederate doing if she's pointing to inform?

The confederate means something in pointing at the left box if she intends:

\begin{enumerate}
  1. \item that you open the left box;
  2. \item that you recognize that she intends (1), that you open the left box; and
  3. \item that your recognition that she intends (1) will be among your reasons for opening the left box.
\end{enumerate}

(Compare Grice, 1967 p. 151; Neale, 1992 p. 544)

So to mean something by pointing, you have to have to have an intention about my recognition of an intention of yours concerning my reasons.
An inconsistent tetrad \begin{enumerate} \item 11- or 12-month-old infants produce and understand declarative pointing gestures. \item Producing or understanding pointing gestures involves understanding communicative actions. \item A communicative action is an action done with an intention to provide someone with evidence of an intention with the further intention of thereby fulfilling that intention. \item Pointing facilitates the developmental emergence of sophisticated cognitive abilities including mindreading \end{enumerate}

Inconsistent tetrad

1. 11- or 12-month-old infants produce and understand declarative pointing gestures.

This is what we have evidence for

2. Producing or understanding pointing gestures involves understanding communicative actions.

This is the rejection of the ‘block-slab’ model of communication

3. A communicative action is an action done with an intention to provide someone with evidence of an intention with the further intention of thereby fulfilling that intention.

This is the theory I take Tomasello & Moll to endorse (although they are not very explicit about it, it’s based on their use of the term ‘shared intentionality’).

4. Pointing facilitates the developmental emergence of sophisticated cognitive abilities including mindreading.

Which claim should we reject?
I’d like to be able to reject (3). But to do that of course we have to supply an alternative account of what a communicative action is, one that doesn’t involve appeal to intention.
 

From Joint Action to Communication

 
\section{From Joint Action to Communication}
Grasping and orienting are object-directed actions. Now referring is not an action in this sense. But it might be that infants understand if it were an action.

grasping / orienting vs referring

Consider grasping as our model. You can grasp an object with your hand, mouth or foot. You can use a precision grip or a power grip or grip it in many other ways. In each case you are grasping the object.
Note that grasping is basic in the sense that the ability to produce or recognise grasping is (arguably) not a matter of being able to produce or recognise more basic actions.

individual vs joint

These things can also be joint actions --- we can collectively orient to, and grasp an object (at least we can if it’s large enough).
(Here I mean joint action in a minimal sense: our actions have the collective goal that we grasp, or orient to, the object. And we each expect this collective goal to occur as a common effect of our actions, yours and mine.)
Why not think of referring as an action too?
You might object that referring is not an action. I agree---properly understood, reference is something that words do in the context of sentences. But we can also allow that there is a kind of act type of which pointing and verbally labelling are both instances.
We might suppose that infants similarly think of pointing and verbally labelling objects as related much as different ways of grasping. There is one action kind---call it referring---which all these are species of. This is what they understand of communication.
So their early understanding of communication with language and of non-linguistic referential communication is a matter of how they categorise actions.
*todo: Contrast both the pure use (block-slab) view, the Gricean view advocated by Tomasello et al view (they have to understand an intention that the action be interpreted in a certain way).

From pointing to one-word utterances ...

Tincoff and Jusczyk showed 6 month old infants two videos (not pictures: what you see here are stills from their videos) simultaneously.
While the videos were playing, the infants heard a word spoken. The word was either 'hand' or 'foot'.
Which video did they look at more?

Tincoff and Jusczyk 2011, figure 1

Here are Tincoff and Jusczyk's results.
They suggest that 6-month-olds can already associate some words with their referents.
But 6-month-old infants don't communicate, neither with words nor by pointing.

Tincoff and Jusczyk 2011, figure 1

Recall the idea of referring as a joint action: if we accept this, then we can see a continuity between the use of pointing and the use of single-word utterances.
In the case of pointing, the tendancy of a pointing action to cause someone to follow it enables the use of pointing to refer; in the case of a one-word utterance, the association creates a tendancy for utterances of the word to result in orienting to the object and this enables the use of that utterance to refer.
(Careful: the mere fact that association exists is not sufficient for communication; nor is the mere fact that an association exists sufficient to make it obvious that the word could be used to refer--this must be a discovery.)

grasping / orienting vs referring

individual vs joint

understanding action

R(a,G) defined with intention

R(a,G) defined non-psychologically

joint action

R(a1, a2, ..., G) defined with shared intention

R(a1, a2, ..., G) defined with expectations about collective goals

communication

Refers(gesture,object) defined with communicative intention

R(gesture,object) defined non-psychologically

Inconsistent tetrad

1. 11- or 12-month-old infants produce and understand declarative pointing gestures.

This is what we have evidence for

2. Producing or understanding pointing gestures involves understanding communicative actions.

This is the rejection of the ‘block-slab’ model of communication

3. A communicative action is an action done with an intention to provide someone with evidence of an intention with the further intention of thereby fulfilling that intention.

This is the theory I take Tomasello & Moll to endorse (although they are not very explicit about it, it’s based on their use of the term ‘shared intentionality’).

4. Pointing facilitates the developmental emergence of sophisticated cognitive abilities including mindreading.

I’ve just argued that we can reject (3). I’ve supplied an alternative account of what a communicative action is, one that doesn’t involve appeal to intention.
 

Syntax / Innateness

 
\section{Syntax / Innateness}
 
\section{Syntax / Innateness}
So far we have considered examples of core knowledge. But we have ignored a paradigm case, one which has inspired much work on this topic (although it is not a case Spelke or Carey would recognize! *todo: stress throughout) ...

core knowledge of

  • physical objects
  • [colour]
  • mental states
  • action
  • number
  • ...
Human adults have extensive knowledge of the syntax of their languages, as illustrated by, for example, their abilities to detect grammatical and ungramatical sentences which they have never heard before, independently of their meanings. To adapt a famous example from Chomsky, ...
  1. The turnip of shapely knowing isn't yet buttressed by death.
  2. *The buttressed turnip shapely knowing yet isn't of by death.
We need to task two questions.

core knowledge of syntax is innate (?)

First, what is this thing, syntax, which is known?
This thing they know, the syntax, isn't plausibly just a list of which sentences are grammatical.
Because people can make judgements about arbitrarily long, entirely novel sentences.
Rather, the thing known must be something that enables people to make judgements about sentences.
We might think of it roughly as a theory of syntax.
It's like a theory in this sense: knowledge of it enables you to make judgements about the grammaticality of arbitrary sentences.
The second question is, Is it *knowledge* we have syntax or something else?
There's something interesting.
The knowledge can be revealed indirectly, by asking people about whether particular sentences are grammatical.
But people can't say anything about how they know the sentence is grammatical.
It's like perceiving the shape of something: there isn't much to say about how you know.
So the theory of syntax isn't something we can discover by introspection:
we have to *rediscover* it from scratch by investigating people's linguistic abilities.
Knowledge of syntax therefore seems to have some of the features associated with core knowledge.
First, it is domain-specific.
Second, it is inaccessible. That is, it can't guide arbitrary actions.
In what follows I want to suggest that syntax provides a paradigm case for thinking about core knowledge.
In addition, I want to use the case of syntax for thinking about the question, What is innate in humans?
I was astonished how many people considered this question in the unassessed essay, some people seem really fascinated by it.
But almost no one discussed the case of syntax in depth. If you're going to talk about innateness, you really need to know a little bit about syntax.
So I'm also going to provide you with that understanding.
Consider a phrase like 'the red ball'.
What is the syntactic structure of this noun phrase?
In principle there are two possibilities.

the red ball

‘I’ll play with this red ball and you can play with that one.’

Lidz et al (2003)

How can we decide between these?
Is the syntactic structure of ‘the red ball’ (a) flat or (b) hierachical?
\begin{center}
\includegraphics[scale=0.25]{../www.slides/src/raw/img/lidz_2003_fig0.neg.png}
\end{center}
\begin{center} from \citealp{lidz:2003_what} \end{center}
\begin{enumerate}
  1. \item ‘red ball’ is a constituent on (b) but not on (a)
  2. \item anaphoric pronouns can only refer to constituents
  3. \item In the sentence ‘I’ll play with this red ball and you can play with that one.’, the word ‘one’ is an anaphoric prononun that refers to ‘red ball’ (not just ball). \citep{lidz:2003_what,lidz:2004_reaffirming}.
\end{enumerate}
What I've just shown you is, in effect, how we can decide whihc way an adult human understands a phrase like 'the red ball'.
We can discover this by finding out how they understand a sentence like 'I’ll play with this red ball and you can play with that one.'.
But how could we do this with infants who are incapable of discussing sentences with us?

infants?

Here's how the experiment works (see \citealp{lidz:2003_what}) ...
The experiment starts with a background assumption:
‘The assumption in the preferential looking task is that infants prefer to look at an image that matches the linguistic stimulus, if one is available’ \citep{lidz:2003_what}.
Look, a yellow bottle!control: What do you see now?
test: Do you see another one?
 
[yellow bottle][yellow bottle][blue bottle]
So the key question was whether infants would look more at the yellow bottle (which is familiar) or the blue bottle (which is novel).
If they think 'one' refers to 'bottle', we'd expect them to look longer at the blue bottle;
and conversely if they think one refers to 'yellow bottle', then they're being asked whether they see another yellow bottle.
And, as always, we need a control condition to check that infants aren't looking in the ways predicted irrespective of the manipulation.

Lidz et al (2003)

And here's what they found ...

Lidz et al (2003, figure 1)

What can we conclude so far?

From 18 months of age or earlier, infants represent the syntax of noun phrases in much the way adults do.

So there is core knowledge of syntax ... or is there?
Core knowledge is often characterised as innate.
I think this is a mistake (more about this later), but many of you do not.

But are these representations innate?

How could we tell whether these representations are innate?
What do we mean by innate here?
The easy answer is: not learned.
But I think there's a more interesting way to approach understanding what 'innate' means.
Quite a few people pointed out that there isn't agreement on what innateness is.
But this is not very interesting by itself because there's disagreement about most things and potential causes of disagreement include ignorance and stupidity.
It's also important that the mere fact that a single term is used with multiple meanings isn't an objection to anyone.
As philosophers, some of you are tempted to catalogue different possible notions of innateness.
I encourage you to resist this temptation; if you want to collect something, pick something useful like banknotes.
There's a much better way to approach things.
Let's see what kind of findings are, or would be, taken to show that something is innate.
We can use these to constrain our thinking about innateness.
We will say: assuming that this is a valid argument that X is innate, what could innateness be?
\subsection{Poverty of stimulus arguments}
The best argument for innateness is the poverty of stimulus argument.
We need to step back and understand how poverty of stimulus arguments work.
Here I'm following \citet{pullum:2002_empirical}, but I'm simplifying their presentation.
How do poverty of stimulus arguments work? See \citet{pullum:2002_empirical}.
First think of them in schematic terms ...

Poverty of stimulus argument

    \begin{enumerate}
  1. \item
    Human infants acquire X.
  2. \item
    To acquire X by data-driven learning you'd need this Crucial Evidence.
  3. \item
    But infants lack this Crucial Evidence for X.
  4. \item
    So human infants do not acquire X by data-driven learning.
  5. \item
    But all acquisition is either data-driven or innately-primed learning.
  6. \item
    So human infants acquire X by innately-primed learning .
  7. \end{enumerate}

compare Pullum & Scholz 2002, p. 18

This is a good structure; you can use it in all sorts of cases, including the one about chicks' object permanence.
Now fill in the details ...
In our case, X is knowledge of the syntactic structure of noun phrases. (Caution: this is a simplification; see\citet[p,\ 158]{lidz:2004_reaffirming}).)
This is what the Lidz et al experiment showed.
Note that no one takes this to be evidence for innateness by itself.
What is the crucial evidence infants would need to learn the syntactic structure of noun phrases?
This is actually really hard to determine, and an on-going source of debate I think.
But roughly speaking it's utterances where the structure matters for the meaning, utterances like 'You play with this red ball and I'll play with that one'.
\citet{lidz:2003_what} establish this by analysing a large corpus (collection) of conversation involving infants.
What can we infer about innateness from this argument?
First, think about what is innate. The fact that knowledge of X is acquired other than by data-driven learning doesn't mean that X is not innate; it just means that something which enables you to learn this is.
Second, think about the function assigned to innateness. That which is innate is supposed to stand in for having the crucial evidence.
This, I think, is the key to thinking about what we *ought* to mean by innateness.
So attributes like being genetically specified are extraneous---they may be typical features of innate things, but they aren't central to the notion.
By contrast, that what is innate is not learned must be constitutive (otherwise that which is innate couldn't stand in for having the crucial evidence)
Contrary to what many philosophers (including Stich and Fodor) will tell you ...

‘the APS [argument from the poverty of stimulus] still awaits even a single good supporting example’

Pullum & Scholz 2002, p. 47

\citep[p.\ 47]{pullum:2002_empirical}
But they wrote this before \citet{lidz:2003_what} came out.

What is innate in humans?

I asked you this question, but what do I think?
I'd approach it by distinguishing two sub-questions (the second of which has two sub-sub-questions)
**todo: Stress other conceptions and arguments good; start with a project from \citet{spelke:2012_core} or from \citet{haun:2010_origins} and you reach a different point!
  1. What evidence is there?
  2. What does the evidence show is innate?
    1. Type: knowledge, core knowledge, modules, concepts, abilities, dispositions ...
    2. Content: e.g. universal grammar, principles of object perception, minimal theory of mind ...
Arguments from the poverty of stimulus are the best way to establish innateness.
The argument concerning syntax we've just been discussing is quite convincing, although if you follow up on the references given in the handout you'll see it's not decisive (as always).
For things other than knowlegde of syntax, the evidence concerning humans is far less clear.
There are, however, quite good cases in nonhuman animals, as many of you know.
So it's not unreasonable to conjecture that learning in the several domains where infants appear to know things early in their first year is innately-primed rather than entirely data-driven.
But, one or two cases aside, there's enough evidence to rule out the converse conjecture.
I don't think what is innate is knowledge, nor do I think it's concepts.
But I think there's a good chance that modules are innate (and therefore core knowledge if I'm right to suppose that 'core knowledge' is a term for the fundamental principles describing the operation of a module).
On content: I think quite a lot is known about the modules thanks to detailed tests that have little to do directly with controversy about inateness.
So let me put the innateness issue aside and get back to what I think matters most ...

Innateness / Syntax Conclusions

  1. Adults have inaccessible, domain-specific representations concerning the syntax of natural languages.
  2. So do infants (from 18 months of age or earlier, well before they can use the syntax in production).
  3. These representations are a paradigm case of core knowledge.
  4. These representations plausibly enable understanding and play a key role in the development of abilities to communicate with language.
This paradigm allows me to highlight something about core knowledge. I would be a mistake to suppose that there is some core knowledge which later becomes knowledge proper --- e.g. the fact that barriers stop solid objects is first core knowledge then later knowledge. The content of the core knowledge is a theory of syntax (let's say). Or, in another case, the content of core knowledge is some principles of object perception. These are things that human adults do not typically know at all, at least not in the sense that they could state the principles. So core knowledge enables us to do things, like anticipate where unseen objects will re-appear or communicate with words. It doesn't seem to be linked directly to the acquisition of concepts.
I'll re-explain development by rediscovery with syntax as the illustration?
I don't think you should mention this in your essays, I'm still trying to work it out myself.

development as rediscovery

core knowledge of syntax
[Object]
ability to communicate with language
[Object]
core knowledge of mind
[Object]
...
[Object]
experience
emotion
sensation
[Object]
reflection on this
[Object]
knowledge knowledge of syntax
[Object]
 

Conclusions and Questions

 
\section{Conclusions and Questions}
 
\section{Conclusions and Questions}

the question

This course was based on a simple question. The question is,
How do humans first come to know about---and to knowingly manipulate---objects, causes, words, numbers, colours, actions and minds?
At the outset we know nothing, or not very much. (Like little Wy here.) Sometime later we do know some things. How does the transition occur?
Have we made any progress in answering this question?

no big idea

(case-by-case approach)

If you're wondering what the big idea is, there isn't one. I think progress depends on approaching it case by case. For instance, we considered the role of language in two cases, knowledge of colour and knowledge of minds. It seems to play quite different roles in these two cases. So while it seems plausible that abilities to communicate by language do play a role in explaining the emergence of knowledge in many domains, it's hard to assign it one role. There are themes running across the cases but little in the way of general principles. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; that's just how it is.

‘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)

I love this: Davidson says we will fail. So encouraging. But why will we fail?
Is he suggesting the issue is merely terminological? Not quite ...

core knowledge of

Core knowledge is initially a label for a problem. With respect to various domains of knowledge including colour, physics and psychology, infants have some but not all of the capacities that are characteristic of knowledge. So we face a dilemma. The simplest explanation of what they can do would be to ascribe them knowledge. But ascribing them knowledge systematically generates false predictions about what they will do. So it must be wrong to ascribe them knowledge. In the first instance, ‘core knowledge’ (or modular cognition, or implicit knowledge, or tacit knowledge) is just a label for whatever it is that is not knowledge but explains these capacities.
  • actions
  • syntax (?)
  • minds
  • causal interactions
  • physical objects
  • colours (?)
  • (number)
  • (space)

What is core knowledge?

Is it all one thing?

Does it exist in adults?

How does it relate to knowledge knowledge?

(How does it relate to nonhumans' cognition?)

Core knowledge exists.
There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge.
Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
  1. Core knowledge exists.
  2. Core knowledge is real. Infants’ have unexpectedly sophisticated abilities concerning physical objects and categorical colour properties (and much more) even from the first year of life.
  3. There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge.
  4. There is a gap between core knowledge and knowledge knowledge. It takes months if not years between clear manifestations of core knowledge and knowledge knowledge. Importantly,
  5. Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
  6. Crossing the gap involves social interactions, perhaps involving words.
backgroundLayer 1understandingactionunderstandingmindsjointactionreferentialcommunicationcommunicationwith words
Gradually build up from understanding minds and actions to words.

Minimal approaches

to joint action

and referential communication

do not presuppose

and may therefore explain

knowledge knowledge.

development as rediscovery

Joint action transforms which abilities core knowledge makes possible, and it is reflection on these abilities and the experiences they case that is the ultimate source of our knowledge.
Well, maybe there is a big idea after all.
(I'm hesitant to mention this because it's not well established and, anyway, you should find your own big idea. But ...)
Through joint action you are able to rediscover what is in some sense already encoded in your core knowledge.
That, anyway, is one idea about how humans come to know about objects, causes, minds and the rest.
core knowledge of syntax
[Object]
ability to communicate with language
[Object]
core knowledge of mind
[Object]
...
[Object]
experience
emotion
sensation
[Object]
reflection on this
[Object]
knowledge knowledge
[Object]