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Precursors of logical reasoning in human infants

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - PreLog (Precursors of logical reasoning in human infants)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

PRELOG explores the origin of human rationality and by analyzing the nature of preverbal inferential abilities - testing its power and establishing its limitations - aims to shed light on the development of our reasoning capacity. PRELOG is structured around several projects that target two main lines of research. The first investigates whether there are logical representations available to infants. The second is aimed at the identification of early logical primitives and their role in problem solving or in understanding the functional use of human made artifacts. Charting infant’s representational repertoire that is a precondition of later reasoning abilities allows us to identify not only the building blocks of human rationality but also the biases and errors that the developing system may express.
In the first period covered in the report we focused on the second main axis of the project. We initiated a set of studies targeting the i.) identification of logical primitives available early in development (e.g. operators that allow capturing disjunctive relations, operators for negation etc.), ii.) infants’ ability to represent possibilities (hypothesizing that the representing possible outcomes as a precondition of logical representation), iii.) infants’ ability to “navigate” into a problem-space with multiple, jointly exhaustive alternatives. Methodologically, these studies are diverse: some experiments required the development of specific testing paradigms (e.g. gaze contingent interactivity controlled by an eye tracker) some others used classical methods (e.g. looking time based analysis). The first results of these studies were already presented to the scientific community at conferences.
Our experiments rely on state of the art methodology (e.g. gaze contingent design, where infants control the stimuli via an eye tracking interface; pupil dilation methods). Logical operations or their pre-cursors were not yet successfully studied in preverbal human infants. These methods will contribute to the identification of logical primitives early in the development that are at the basis of human rationality.