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Developmental Psychology Seminar Series - Gedeon Deak

October 16, 2019 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm

Professor Gideon Deak from UC San Diego will be presenting a talk entitled, "Hidden figures: The subtle statistical structure in everyday parenting."

Abstract: In 1956 Noam Chomsky boldly claimed that infants could not inductively infer abstract meanings (or, by generalization, other social structures) from a noisy and underdetermined environment. Since then, infant researchers and cognitive ethnographers have countered this speculation with actual data -- data that increasingly reveal a richly structured network of information in the most prosaic of exchanges between infants and their caregivers. I will review several studies illustrating how caregivers' unscripted behaviors - their words, gestures, and pragmatic actions -provide a teaching signal to infants. Some of these might be intentional, but likely many are neither intended nor consciously realized. I will discuss the significance of such findings for theories of infant cognitive and language development, and consider how far they go in countering rationalist claims. Finally, I will discuss the future of infant development theory and research in an era of ever-expanding new sensors and methods for data acquisition and data analysis. I will suggest that these advances have the potential to fundamentally transform our understanding of infant development.

Bio: Dr. Gedeon Deak is a Professor of Cognitive Science at the Univ. California, San Diego, where he directs the Cognitive Development Lab ( He received his BA from Vassar College and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He and his collaborators study learning, communication, and cognition in infants, children, and adults. His research collaborations use methods including cognitive ethnography, experimental behavioral paradigms, computationalsimulations, and physiological measures. Prof. Deák is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and a former National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellow. He has received support from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, M.I.N.D. Institute, National Alliance for Autism Research, and Kavli Institute for Mind and Brain, among others.


SSM 217

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Heather Bortfeld