Department of Psychology
Childhood as a solution to explore-exploit tensions
I argue that the evolution of our life history, with its distinctively long, protected human childhood allows an early period of broad hypothesis search and exploration, before the demands of goal-directed exploitation set in. This cognitive profile is also found in other animals and is associated with early behaviours such as neophilia and play. I relate this developmental pattern to computational ideas about explore-exploit trade-offs, search and sampling, and to neuroscience findings. I also present several lines of new empirical evidence suggesting that young human learners are highly exploratory, both in terms of their search for external information and their search through hypothesis spaces. In fact, they are sometimes more exploratory than older learners and adults.
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