Current research programs

Learning from learners

Adapting infant learning strategies may be the key to slowing cognitive decline in aging adults. In particular, there are six aspects in the environment and within infants and children that help these young learners learn so efficiently.

  1. Open-minded, input-driven learning (learning new patterns, new skills, exploring outside of one’s comfort zone).
  2. Individualized scaffolding (consistent access to teachers and mentors who guide learning).
  3. Growth mindset (belief that abilities are developed with effort).
  4. Forgiving environment (allowed to make mistakes and even fail).
  5. Serious commitment to learning (learn to master essential skills rather than hobbies, persevere despite setbacks).
  6. Learning multiple skills simultaneously (such as developing language, motor, visual, and social skills).

Academic articles:

Non-academic/media articles:

The benefits and costs of knowledge

By young adulthood, we have acquired valuable knowledge that lets us be efficient in the real world (such as shopping at a grocery store and finding what you want). One example of how knowledge is useful is that young adults can find one object (such as carrots) very quickly (by 200 milliseconds). Young adults can even search for a whole category such as “any healthy food” by 200 milliseconds. However, the cost of knowledge is that previous knowledge can be distracting in situations when they are not as relevant. For example, the letter “R” will distract you when searching for the letter “A” because you know that they are both letters. Our studies show that these costs seem to emerge from increased knowledge. This line of research investigates what the benefits and costs of knowledge are for young adults, and how they deal with them as “peak performers” in the lifespan. Future research will extend this work to aging adults who may not deal as well with the costs of knowledge. These studies use neural (EEG) and behavioral responses (reaction time and accuracy).

Learning to learn during infancy

Infants have relatively little knowledge compared to adults. The upside to this is that infants are capable of learning many things that are difficult for adults (such as language). The downside is that infants have difficulty choosing what to learn when confronted with a lot of information. This problem is typically solved in adults by knowledge – our previous knowledge tells us what is relevant or not relevant to learn. To solve this problem during infancy, this line of research has found that infants start using people to choose what objects to learn about by 8 months of age. This skill is important to develop because people are powerful tools to help infant learners figure out what is relevant to learn. Without this shortcut, learners may take longer paths to relevant information or even divergent paths to irrelevant information. For these studies, we use eye-trackers to measure where and for how long infants look to determine what they learn.


Workshops

Learning to Attend, Attending to Learn: Neurological, Behavioral, and Computational Perspectives
Organizers: Gedeon Deak, Richard Aslin, R. Wu, & Rebecca Nako. UCSD, San Diego, CA (Nov 6-7, 2013)

Gaze, Bias, Learning II: Linking Computation, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Development
Invited speakers: Shinsuke Shimojo, Takashi Omori, Masamichi Sakagami, Jan Lauwereyns, Shohei Hidaka, Hideyuki Takahashi, & R. Wu, Tamagawa University, Tokyo (March 12, 2012)

Gaze, Bias, Learning: Linking Computation, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Development (afternoon workshop)
How to get ahead in academia in 5 countries (morning workshop)
Invited speakers: Jan Lauwereyns, Jochen Triesch, Gaia Scerif, Thomas Hannagan, Eddy Davelaar, & R. Wu, Birkbeck, London (January 23, 2012)



Publications

  • Wu, R. (in press). Cross-pollination in cognitive development. In M. H. Bornstein, M. E. Arterberry, K. L. Fingerman, & J. E. Lansford (Eds.) SAGE Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development (pp. XXX-XXX). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Wu, R., & Hannagan, T. (in press). Learning. In M. H. Bornstein, M. E. Arterberry, K. L. Fingerman, & J. E. Lansford (Eds.) SAGE Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development (pp. XXX-XXX). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Wu, R., & Scerif, G. (in press). Attention. In M. H. Bornstein, M. E. Arterberry, K. L. Fingerman, & J. E. Lansford (Eds.) SAGE Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development (pp. XXX-XXX). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Swan, K. A., Wu, R., & Kirkham, N. Z. (2013). 8-month-olds know which face is reliable. In M. Knauff, M Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Berlin, Germany: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Wu, R., & Kirkham, N. Z. (2012). Learning (to learn) from spatial attention cues during infancy. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1161-1166). Sapporo, Japan: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Yurovsky, D., Hidaka, S., & Wu, R. (2012). Quantitative Linking Hypotheses for Infant Eye Movements. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Sapporo, Japan: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Hannagan, T., & Wu, R. (2011). Cued multimodal learning in infancy: A neuro-computational model. In C. Hoelscher, T. F. Shipley, & L. Carlson (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Boston, MA: Cognitive Science Society.
  • Yurovsky, D., Wu, R., Yu, C., Kirkham, N. Z., & Smith, L. B. (2011). Model selection for eye movements: assessing the role of attentional cues in infant learning. In E. J. Davelaar (Ed.), Connectionist models of neurocognition and emergent behavior: From theory to applications (pp. 58-75). Singapore: World Scientific.
  • Wu, R., Kirkham, N. Z., Swan, K. A., & Gliga, T. (2011). Social signals scaffold learning from novel cues during infancy. In B. Kokinov, A. Karmiloff-Smith, & N. Nersessian (Eds.), Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Science. Sofia, Bulgaria: New Bulgarian University Press. Awarded Best Student Paper Prize.
  • Wu, R., Gopnik, A., Richardson, D. C., & Kirkham, N. Z. (2010). Social cues support learning about objects from statistics in infancy. In S. Ohlsson & R. Catrambone (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1228-1233). Portland, OR: Cognitive Science Society.