心理科学进展, 2019, 27(8): 1427-1438 doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2019.01427

研究前沿

儿童在因果知识领域内的选择性学习

柴凯轩1,2, 李宜霖1,2, 朱莉琪,1

1 中国科学院心理研究所行为科学重点实验室, 北京 100101

2 中国科学院大学, 北京 100049

Children’s selective learning in the domain of causal knowledge

CHAI Kaixuan1,2, LI Yilin1,2, ZHU Liqi,1

1 Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

通讯作者: 朱莉琪, E-mail: zhulq@psych.ac.cn

收稿日期: 2018-11-15   网络出版日期: 2019-07-26

基金资助: * 国家社科基金重大项目.  14ZDB161

Received: 2018-11-15   Online: 2019-07-26

摘要

儿童的选择性学习是目前认知发展领域的热点问题。儿童在因果知识领域内的选择性学习(即选择性因果学习)对于回答儿童如何获取知识这个经典问题具有重要意义。儿童的选择性因果学习表现在对他人解释的辨别、评估与采纳上。他们会主动向可靠的信息提供者寻求解释, 并在接收回答后表现出选择性跟进反应。对于他人的回答, 年幼儿童不仅能根据言语线索辨别出解释性陈述, 还能依据解释的结构特征选择更好的陈述加以采纳, 年长儿童甚至可以从不同模式的解释中灵活地学习更适宜的因果知识。未来研究应深入关注解释的其它特征在儿童选择性因果学习中的作用, 进一步探讨选择性因果学习的认知机制。

关键词: 选择性学习 ; 因果知识 ; 解释寻求 ; 解释质量 ; 解释模式

Abstract

In the recent years, children’s selective learning has attracted wide-spread attention in the field of cognitive development. Specifically, understanding children’s selective learning in the domain of causal knowledge provides important insights for addressing a classic question in developmental research, namely how children acquire knowledge. Children generally acquire causal knowledge by identifying, evaluating and endorsing information from others. They actively seek explanations from reliable informants, and they select their responses based on the quality of the answers they have received. Since an early age, children can use verbal cues to distinguish explanatory responses from non-explanatory responses. Moreover, when given several explanations, they can tell which one is superior to others based on the structural characteristics of these explanations. Older children can even identify various modes of construal and adopt the appropriate one. Future studies could further investigate the roles of other exploratory characteristics in children’s selective causal learning. Researchers should also further address some controversial issues regarding the cognitive mechanisms of selective casual learning.

Keywords: selective learning ; causal knowledge ; explanation-seeking ; explanatory qualities/virtues ; modes of construal

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本文引用格式

柴凯轩, 李宜霖, 朱莉琪. (2019). 儿童在因果知识领域内的选择性学习 . 心理科学进展, 27(8), 1427-1438

CHAI Kaixuan, LI Yilin, ZHU Liqi. (2019). Children’s selective learning in the domain of causal knowledge. Advances in Psychological Science, 27(8), 1427-1438

1 引言

儿童的认知发展研究旨在揭示儿童的概念形成、言语习得、知识获取等规律。一些研究者认为, 儿童像“小科学家”一样, 通过自身的探索活动形成概念、获取知识(Gopnik & Wellman, 2012; Piaget, 1929)。另一些研究者则认为, 儿童还像“小人类学家”一样, 通过社会互动不断地吸收他人传递的经验知识(Harris, 2012; Legare & Harris, 2016; Vygotsky, 1980)。这种通过与其他个体或社会产品(如书籍、工具等)进行互动, 进而学习新知识的方式称为“社会学习” (social learning; Hoppitt & Laland, 2013)。社会学习对于儿童的认知发展非常重要, 它不仅是发展心理学持续关注的领域, 也是认知科学、人类学、进化生物学等诸多学科近来比较关注的话题(Heyes, 2017; Heyes & Pearce, 2015; Kendal et al., 2018; Koenig & Sabbagh, 2013; Poulin-Dubois & Brosseau-Liard, 2016; van Leeuwen et al., 2018)。

认识世界是儿童首要的发展任务, 其中对因果关系的学习是重中之重(Bridgers, Buchsbaum, Seiver, Griffiths, & Gopnik, 2016)。儿童通过对事物间因果关系的理解, 从而达到解释、预测和控制周围环境的目的。儿童的因果学习不仅依赖于物理性线索(Gopnik, 2012; Lucas, Bridgers, Griffiths, & Gopnik, 2014; McCormack, Frosch, Patrick, & Lagnado, 2015), 还受到社会性线索的影响(Bridgers et al., 2016; Ronfard, Chen, & Harris, 2018)。研究发现, 儿童的很多知识都是从他人的陈词(testimony)中获得的(Harris, Koenig, Corriveau, & Jaswal, 2018; see also Gelman, 2009; Harris & Koenig, 2006; Mills & Landrum, 2014)。陈词是一种以语言为载体的, 包含个体思想或信念的信息(Sosa, 1991), 是信息提供者向信息接收者做出的断言陈述句(Coady, 1992; 张耀华, 朱莉琪, 2014)。儿童可以借助他人的陈词, 更快速有效地获取因果知识, 但并非他人传递的所有信息都是准确的或是值得学习的。儿童如何对信息和信息源进行辨别、评估, 并选择性地采纳他人的知识, 这是选择性学习的核心研究内容(Sobel & Kushnir, 2013; see also Brosseau-Liard, 2017; Koenig & Sabbagh, 2013; Poulin-Dubois & Brosseau-Liard, 2016)。

解释(explanation)是因果学习的重要部分, 它帮助人们理解世界、形成概念并指导认知活动(Cimpian & Keil, 2017)。在社会学习中, 解释即他人提供的有关因果知识的陈词。同理, 儿童如何对他人的解释性陈词进行辨别、评估与采纳, 这是儿童在因果知识领域进行选择性学习的核心研究内容。本文综述相关研究, 围绕儿童在因果知识领域内的选择性学习, 阐述儿童主动向他人寻求解释, 对他人提供的解释加以选择, 并从中学习因果知识的过程(后文以“选择性因果学习”相称), 探讨儿童识别解释性信息、选择优质解释或适宜解释的能力。

2 儿童对解释性陈词的主动寻求

当人们遭遇未知或不确定问题时, 甚至语前期的婴儿都会主动向他人寻求信息支持(Harris, Bartz, & Rowe, 2017; Schulz, 2012; see also Goupil, Romand-Monnier, & Kouider, 2016; Stahl & Feigenson, 2015)。儿童通过与富有知识的个体进行交流, 从中学到了大量的知识, 特别是因果知识(Baldwin & Moses, 1996; Rogoff, 1998; Ronfard, Bartz, Cheng, Chen, & Harris, 2018)。询问行为(inquiring)就是儿童向他人寻求信息支持的重要方式。

询问行为是指个体通过表达疑问向他人寻求信息的交流行为(Baldwin & Moses, 1996), 是儿童借助语言进行的主动探索活动。随着儿童对语言的掌握, 询问行为成为他们常见且重要的社会学习方式。正是借助大量的询问行为, 儿童才得以迅速、准确地获得人们长期积累的文化财富(Legare, 2017; Legare & Harris, 2016; Tomasello, 2016)。研究发现, 学前期儿童询问的问题内容广泛, 如行为目的、文化习俗、自然现象、生物知识、机械原理等(Callanan & Oakes, 1992; Chouinard, 2007; Greif, Kemler Nelson, Keil, & Gutierrez, 2006; Kelemen, Callanan, Casler, & Pérez-Granados, 2005), 这其中有事实型(fact-based)问题(用以寻求“是什么”的信息), 也有解释型(explanation-based)问题(用以寻求“为什么” “怎么样”的信息)。另有研究发现, 随着年龄的增长, 年幼儿童逐渐由以询问事实为主转向以寻求解释为主(Frazier, Gelman, & Wellman, 2009; Hickling & Wellman, 2001; Kurkul & Corriveau, 2018)。因此, 解释寻求(询问解释型问题)逐渐成为儿童询问行为的主要表现, 是他们在因果知识领域内进行社会学习的重要方式。

儿童的解释寻求包括提问(Question)、回答(Response)和跟进(Follow-up)三部分(Kurkul & Corriveau, 2018), 提问过程又可细分为萌生(Initiation)、构思(Formulation)和表达(Expression)三个子过程(Ronfard, Zambrana, Hermansen, & Kelemen, 2018)。研究发现, 学前儿童解释寻求的提问阶段和跟进阶段都具有选择性:幼儿会选择向可靠的个体寻求解释(Kushnir, Vredenburgh, & Schneider, 2013; Lane & Harris, 2015; Mills, Legare, Grant, & Landrum, 2011); 如果他人的解释令人满意, 幼儿会予以肯定或展开深入的追问, 否则, 幼儿会予以否定或重申问题, 有时甚至自己尝试给出解释(Callanan & Oakes, 1992; Chouinard, 2007; Frazier et al., 2009, 2016; Kurkul & Corriveau, 2018)。解释寻求的提问阶段和跟进阶段分别体现了不同方面的选择性:提问过程反映了解释寻求如何产生, 而跟进过程反映了询问行为如何结束或进一步发展。儿童寻求解释的目的是获取解释性信息, 在他人提供信息后, 儿童在跟进阶段的反应是儿童选择性因果学习的表现。因此, 本文将着重阐述儿童对他人提供的解释进行选择性学习的过程(即儿童如何对他人给出的解释性信息进行辨别、评估与采纳), 以及解释的特征(言语线索、结构特征、模式等)在儿童的选择性因果学习中的作用。

3 解释的特征在儿童选择性因果学习中的作用

解释与因果知识是密不可分的:解释通常需要包含事物现象、属性背后的原因, 而因果知识也通常被用来说明事物为何存在或如何变化等(Lombrozo & Vasilyeva, 2017)。解释帮助儿童建构概念、掌握规律, 所以学习良好的因果解释对儿童的认知发展至关重要。选择性地学习他人的解释首先需要儿童辨别他人的陈词是否包含了解释性信息。其次, 儿童需要从多个解释性陈词中区分出更好的解释并加以采纳。最后, 儿童还需要具备抽象的认识, 根据问题选择更加适宜的解释进行学习。

3.1 解释的言语线索

在选择良好的解释进行学习之前, 儿童需要具备从他人提供的信息中辨别出有效解释的能力。解释的言语线索(verbal cues)指能够表明陈述具有解释功能的语用或语义特征。儿童很早就能够利用言语线索区分解释性陈述与非解释陈述。例如, Bernard, Mercier和Clément (2012)在实验中向3~5岁的幼儿呈现了两种描述物体位置的陈述。其中一种陈述包含了因果连词, 如“球在蓝色的盒子里, 因为(because)卡米尔总是把它放在那里”, 另一种陈述用语气词替换因果连词, 如“球在绿色的盒子里, 嗯(well), 卡米尔总是把它放在那里”。结果发现, 4、5岁的幼儿会根据包含因果连词的陈述到相应位置寻找物体, 表明学前儿童可以通过简单的言语线索(如因果连词), 判断陈述是否包含了解释性信息。

学前儿童能根据有无因果连词辨别出解释性陈述, 但他们并不完全依赖因果连词的标志性作用。即便他人的陈述中没有因果连词这一言语线索, 学前儿童仍然可以辨别他人的陈述是否解释了问题。Frazier等人(2009, 2016)研究发现, 3~5岁的儿童会对诸如复述(“你说的对, 鸟巢里有个乌龟”)、描述规范(“人们通常不像那样戴红鼻子”)或个人喜好(“我喜欢把牛奶倒到麦片里”)等回答表现出不满, 他们会更多地重申问题或是尝试自己解释。相较之下, 这些儿童对同样不包含“因为”连词的解释性陈述更满意, 表现出更多的赞同和深入的追问。Frazier等人(2016)还发现, 学前儿童在回忆他人的无解释陈述时会建构记忆。他们不仅会在回忆他人的回答时自行添加因果连词(“因为……”), 甚至将不具解释效力的回答改编成带有因果连词的“解释性陈述”。这些结果表明, 因果连词仅仅是儿童区分陈述是否具有解释性的一种感知依据, 陈述的语义内容才是其判断的关键。

此外, 有些陈述虽然包含了因果连词, 但其内容并没有提供实质性的因果信息。例如, 循环的解释会重申问题中的内容, 而不增加任何有意义的新信息(Baum, Danovitch, & Keil, 2008; Corriveau & Kurkul, 2014)。区分循环与非循环解释需要儿童具备更成熟的辨别能力。研究者向6岁和10岁儿童呈现长度相同的循环解释与非循环解释, 其中循环的解释只是重申了问题中的内容, 而非循环的解释则提供了因果关系内容。结果发现, 6岁的儿童已经能够区分两种解释, 并且表现出对非循环解释的偏向性(Baum et al., 2008)。另有研究发现, 更年幼的儿童也能区分循环和非循环的解释, 并且偏好非循环的解释(Castelain, Bernard, & Mercier, 2018; Castelain, Bernard, Van der Henst, & Mercier, 2016; Mercier, Bernard, & Clément, 2014)。例如, 研究者向年幼儿童(2~5岁)呈现合成物的图片(如一个物体75%的特征像鸟, 25%的特征像鱼)。接着, 信息提供者给出了伴有不同解释说明的相同命名(循环的解释:“这是个鱼, 因为我看着它像鱼”, 非循环的解释:“这是个鱼, 因为我看到过它在水里游”)。结果发现, 即便是2岁的儿童也显著地倾向于接受非循环解释者随后对新刺激材料的命名(Castelain et al., 2018)。上述研究表明, 从循环解释与非循环解释中辨别出有效的解释性陈述是儿童较早发展出的选择性因果学习能力, 它是儿童准确、有效地采纳他人解释的基础。

与此同时, 年幼儿童辨别解释性陈述的能力也服务于他们的社会推断过程(例如对他人可信度的推断) (Corriveau & Kurkul, 2014; see also Doebel, Rowell, & Koenig, 2016)。在一项研究中, 实验者向学前儿童呈现了两个信息提供者对自然现象的解释(如“为什么会下雨”), 其中一人总是提供循环的解释(例如“下雨是因为水从天上掉了下来并且把我们淋湿”), 另一人总是提供非循环的解释(例如“下雨是因为云里充满了水并且积攒了太多”)。结果发现, 在面对陌生物体和新异现象时, 3~5岁的幼儿都倾向于采信非循环解释者(Corriveau & Kurkul, 2014)。该研究表明, 学前儿童不仅能根据陈词的语义差异辨别出有效的解释, 他们还能基于这种信息特点推断信息提供者的可靠性。这种社会推断也能服务于儿童的解释寻求行为, 它帮助年幼儿童区分出周围可靠的解释提供者, 确保儿童准确、有效地采纳他人的陈词。

综上所述, 儿童可以根据解释的言语线索推断他人的回答是否值得学习。学前儿童能清楚地识别与解释相关的标志词, 认识到有无解释的陈述在语义上的差异, 甚至能够区分出循环和非循环的解释。这些研究结果说明, 儿童不仅能够在词汇水平识别他人是否给出了因果解释, 还能根据解释的语义内容在语句水平选择有意义的解释性陈述(包含新信息的非循环解释), 并对信息提供者的可信度进行推断。在儿童通过他人解释学习因果知识的过程中, 判断陈述中是否包含有意义的新信息是必要的。然而, 仅具备这种能力不足以帮助儿童鉴别优质的解释, 进行高质量、高效率的学习。面对同样有意义但存在优劣差异的解释, 儿童能否对其进行评估和选择, 这个问题亦值得关注。

3.2 解释的结构特征

儿童不仅可以借助言语线索区分解释性陈述与非解释陈述, 他们甚至能够对解释的相对优劣进行评估。儿童和成人一样, 在评价解释时会关注“解释质量” (explanatory qualities/virtues; Glymour, 2015; Lombrozo, 2016)。现有研究考察了与解释质量有关的结构特征对儿童选择性因果学习的影响, 其中主要包括解释的简易性和广度。

3.2.1 解释的简易性

解释的简易性(simplicity)是指解释说明中所含原因数量的精简程度(Bonawitz & Lombrozo, 2012; Lombrozo, 2007, 2012)。在对比多个解释性陈述时, 即便它们都阐释了因果关系, 成人通常会认为诠释简易因果关系的解释是更优质的。与复杂解释(包含两个独立前因)相比, 成人对简易解释(包含单个共同前因)存在先验偏向性(Lombrozo, 2007)。

针对学前儿童的研究也得出了一致的结果。Bonawitz和Lombrozo (2012)向4~6岁儿童介绍了一种新颖的玩具, 将不同颜色的木片放在玩具的启动槽内会导致不同的结果:蓝色木片会导致玩具转动并亮灯, 绿色木片只引发玩具转动, 红色木片只导致玩具亮灯。接着, 实验者偶然将一袋木片打翻, 导致玩具的灯和风车都启动了, 实验要求儿童解释这一事件可能的原因。研究发现, 4岁和5岁的儿童倾向于认为蓝色木片是启动器, 表明学前儿童倾向于认可包含单个共同前因的简易解释。Walker, Bonawitz和Lombrozo (2017)使用其它领域的问题验证了上述结果。实验者设计了更加情境化的实验, 向4~6岁的儿童呈现两个不健康的植物(分别种植在花园的不同位置), 并询问儿童这些植物生病的原因。实验者提供了两种可能的解释:共同前因解释(土壤类型导致两个植物生病)或独立前因解释(坏花洒和缺少阳光分别导致两种植物生病)。结果发现, 年幼儿童对简易解释的偏向性表现出发展差异:4岁儿童对两种解释没有显著的偏好, 而5岁儿童已经部分表现出对简易解释的偏好。上述研究表明, 学前后期的儿童具有明显的简易性偏向, 他们像成人一样开始更加关注解释(因果结构)的简易性。

儿童与成人在选择解释时会受到语句中因果结构简易性的影响, 其中的缘由仍存在争议。一方面, 人们偏好简易解释是理性的(rational)抉择。研究者区分了节点简易性(node simplicity; 体现在解释中包含的前因总数上)和根源简易性(root simplicity; 体现在未解释的前因数量上), 发现成人具体表现为对根源简易性抱有偏好(Pacer & Lombrozo, 2017)。根源简易的解释对繁杂的因果关系进行了精简, 这便于人们对其进行记忆、分析和传递。同时, 人们认为根据单一前因预测出有效结果或对单一前因进行控制得出有效结果的概率相对更大。所以, 人们选择简单的解释, 偏好因果结构简易的解释具有一定合理性。另一方面, 人们偏好简易解释可能是启发式(heuristic)判断的结果。研究发现, 当概率信息难于计算时, 复杂解释的先验概率要强于简易解释的近10倍才能使成人不再“盲目”偏好简易解释(Lombrozo, 2007); 当概率信息可以进行计算时, 成人不再表现出简易性偏好, 他们会支持更可能的解释, 即使这个解释需要的前因数较多, 而4到6岁儿童仍然倾向于接受简易的解释(Bonawitz & Lombrozo, 2012)。这表明, 简易性偏好可能是一种启发式的思维, 它在人们无法理性判断时提供了选择依据。

综上所述, 学前期的儿童已同成人一样表现出对解释的简易性偏好, 然而, 这种偏好背后的认知机制尚存在争议。年幼的儿童到底是生来带有对简易解释的启发式偏好?还是在对解释性陈词进行判断的经历中逐渐习得“简易解释更优”的理性推断?后续研究需要对这一问题进行直接检验, 并进一步探讨儿童偏好简易解释的认知机制问题。这有助于研究者认识个体因果学习中的理性及其起源。

3.2.2 解释的广度

解释的广度(breadth)是指解释说明可涵盖观测结果的范围大小(Khemlani, Sussman, & Oppenheimer, 2011)。儿童和成人不仅认为简易的解释更加优质, 还认为范围广的解释是良好的解释(Johnston, Johnson, Koven, & Keil, 2017)。

年幼的儿童已经可以认识到解释的广度在学习概念和理解事物时的作用。研究发现, 在评价生物现象的解释性陈述时, 5~7岁的儿童认为概括范围大的陈述(如“所有动物……”)比概括范围小的陈述(如“所有熊……”)更好(Johnston, Sheskin, Johnson, & Keil, 2018)。在学习因果关系时, 儿童和成人也会偏好涵盖范围更广的陈述, 即覆盖更多观测现象的解释(Johnston et al., 2017)。儿童偏好范围广的解释并非盲目的选择。例如, 在对物理领域的概念或现象进行学习时, 5~7岁儿童并没有表现出对概括范围大的解释性陈述的偏好(Johnston et al., 2018)。儿童需要具备对抽象物理规律(如重力)的认识, 才能够理解某些物理解释的普遍性。所以在掌握必要的抽象认识之前, 儿童会谨慎地评估解释广度。

另有研究考察了儿童对解释的潜在范围(latent scope)的偏向性。解释的潜在范围指解释说明中包含的尚未证实结果的数量(Johnson, Rajeev -Kumar, & Keil, 2014, 2016; Khemlani et al., 2011)。研究者向成人和儿童(4~8岁)呈现针对某个事件的解释说明, 解释或是仅包含可观测的现象, 或是还包含了未经证实的现象。结果发现, 成人和儿童对潜在范围窄的解释说明(包含较少未证实现象的解释)有更多的偏好(Johnston et al., 2017)。

综上所述, 范围广的解释为儿童提供了在不同情境下进行推断的机会, 使他们可以更有效率地学习相关领域知识。同时, 儿童并不会盲目地偏好范围广的解释, 他们能够合理地根据广度线索选择解释。所以, 对解释广度的偏好可能是儿童和成人理性选择的结果。

现有研究主要考察了解释质量在人们推断优质解释时的作用。研究均发现, 儿童与成人一样, 不仅会收集概率信息推断因果规律, 还会根据解释的质量对优质的解释进行选择和学习(Lombrozo, 2016; see also Lipton, 2004)。直接对比解释的质量和概率时, 成人和儿童都会给解释质量赋予更高的权重, 甚至在解释质量的影响下选择后验概率不高的解释(Bonawitz & Lombrozo, 2012; Johnston et al., 2017)。根据解释质量偏好某类解释可能源于经验形成的启发式认识, 也可能源于对高效力解释的理性选择(Pacer & Lombrozo, 2017)。启发式和理性判断过程在儿童的选择性因果学习中都起到重要的作用, 两种认知过程是相辅相成、共同发挥作用的。启发式过程帮助儿童自动、迅速地做出反应, 理性判断则能帮助儿童在复杂情境中通过推断做出更灵活的反应(e.g. Hermes, Behne, & Rakoczy, 2018)。在儿童的选择性因果学习中, 启发式和理性判断的认知过程分别在何时、如何发挥作用, 这仍是需要深入探讨的问题。

3.3 解释的模式

在面对多个解释时, 儿童和成人会根据解释的结构特征选择更优质的陈词, 这符合研究者们对解释持有的本质主义(essentialist)的观点。该观点认为, 对于待解释的问题, 有且仅有一种解释是最为合理的, 即存在一种真正(bona fide)解释的本质(Salmon, 1989)。也就是说, 在众多解释中, 那些接近真正解释本质的是更好的。然而, 这种观点过于绝对且独立于情境, 它无法解释个体对同一问题会产生不同理解的现象。任何解释型问题都可以引出多种可能的回答, 这些回答在内容与理解方式上各不相同(van Fraassen, 1980; see also Vasilyeva, Wilkenfeld, & Lombrozo, 2015)。因此, 另一些研究者对解释持有实用主义(pragmatism)的观点。该观点认为, 对于待解释问题, 许多解释都是合理的, 不存在绝对合理的那个, 产生解释的过程即从众多合理的解释性陈述中选取符合问题情境的解释的过程(Chin-Parker & Bradner, 2010; van Fraassen, 1980)。

3.3.1 解释模式的划分

解释常被用来回答“为什么”和“怎么样”的问题, 但解释型问题并不只有一种解答。例如, “为什么鹿的身上长有斑点”可以解释为“这是鹿的基因和产前环境导致的”, 也可以说“这是鹿用以躲避捕食者而进行的伪装” (Lombrozo & Wilkenfeld, 2018)。这两种陈述都回答了同一问题, 但涉及的原因不同(Lombrozo, 2010, 2012)。

早在古希腊时期, 哲学家Aristotle就提出了“四因说” (Four causes), 用以阐明解释的不同方面(Falcon, 2015; Lombrozo, 2006)。其中, 动力因(efficient cause)指出了近端机制, 通过说明事物现象的起因与经过来回答“如何” (how come)的问题; 目的因(final cause)指出了功能、目的等最终状态, 通过说明事物现象的结果与意义来回答“为何” (what for)的问题。此外, 形式因(formal cause)用事物间的类属关系来说明事物属性的缘由, 质料因(material cause)用事物的组成特质来说明事物属性的特点。这种对原因的分类方式持续影响着后来研究者对不同解释的认识。心理学家通过研究儿童在各知识领域内解释与预测模式的特点, 发现年幼儿童具备多种解释模式(modes of construal; Keil, 2006), 包括目的论(teleological)模式和物理(physical)模式。这两种解释模式分别对应Aristotle的目的因与动力因。

基于对解释模式的认识, 研究者们对解释进行了相应的划分。有的研究者将日常生活中父母回答儿童问题的解释划分成了目的论(teleological)解释和因果论(causal)解释(Kelemen et al., 2005)。另有研究者将解释划分成了功能类(functional)解释和机制类(mechanistic)解释(Lombrozo, 2010; Lombrozo & Wilkenfeld, 2018)。上述区分方式的思路是一致的:目的功能解释基于人们对功能、目的、意义的理解, 反映了目的论的解释模式; 因果机制解释基于人们对因果机制或因果前件的理解, 反映了物理的解释模式。

3.3.2 儿童对不同模式解释的评估与采纳

儿童寻求的解释型问题涉及许多领域, 他们接收的解答也包含多种模式。儿童对不同模式解释的辨别、评估和采纳也是选择性因果学习关注的问题。

辨别解释模式的差异首先需要儿童认识和区分不同模式的解释。儿童同时具有目的功能模式和因果机制模式的认知方式(Keil, 1995)。一方面, 小学中、低年级的儿童(7~10岁)会认为世间万物因目的而存在, 甚至对无生命的自然物也会用目的或功能来理解其属性, 如石头之所以尖是因为这样能防止其他动物坐在上面把它坐坏(Kelemen, 1999; see also Piaget, 1929; Schachner, Zhu, Li, & Kelemen, 2017)。另一方面, 3、4岁幼儿会认为自发性物理事件一定有因果前件, 如灯泡自己亮了起来是因为实验者操纵了隐藏的机关(Muentener & Schulz, 2014; Buchanan & Sobel, 2011)。这表明儿童具备辨别不同模式解释的认知基础。

在辨别的基础上, 儿童对不同模式解释是否存在选择偏好?自然语料分析发现, 学前儿童(2~5岁)更满意父母给出的解释性回答, 表现出更多的赞同和追问。但学前儿童对不同模式解释的跟进反应没有显著不同, 表明学前儿童并未对某一模式的解释有明显的选择偏好(Frazier et al., 2009)。另有研究发现, 7到8岁儿童在面对生物类问题时更偏好目的功能解释, 而面对非生物类问题时更偏好因果机制解释(Keil, 1992)。由此看来, 儿童对不同模式解释的评估存在发展上的差异。年幼儿童没有表现出对某种模式解释的选择偏好, 年长儿童开始根据问题的领域特殊性对某种模式的解释产生选择偏好。

儿童对他人陈词的选择性学习首先表现在对陈词的辨别或偏好上, 其次表现为选择性采纳。对解释的记忆效果可以反映出儿童采纳他人回答的情况。例如, 有研究发现, 4到5岁岁幼儿会调用更多的认知资源加工解释性回答, 且他们对回答的记忆效果与满意程度有关, 表明儿童对他人解释的保持情况是儿童选择性地采纳解释性陈词的表现(Frazier et al., 2016)。儿童对他人解释的泛化也是采纳解释性陈词的反映。自然教学论(natural pedagogy)观点指出, 儿童不会将他人有意告知自己的知识视作情景特异的(episode- specific)知识, 而是将这些知识视为一般性(generic)知识(Csibra & Gergely, 2009), 所以儿童会在同类问题上运用先前学习的解释模式。

近期一项研究直接考察了学前儿童对他人解释的采纳情况。该研究向4、5岁儿童呈现了一些自然现象(如星星亮晶晶)及相应的目的功能或因果机制的解释说明, 之后鼓励儿童对相似现象(如不同样子的星星亮晶晶)和新异现象(如火山会冒气)进行解释说明。结果发现, 无论儿童先前听到哪种模式解释的说明, 他们大多都会复述实验者的回答, 且对两种模式解释的保持和迁移没有显著差异。这表明学前儿童会对不同模式的解释进行了相同程度的采纳, 并未表现出对某一类解释的偏好, 即不加选择地悉数接纳(Lombrozo, Bonawitz & Scalise, 2018)。然而, 该研究采用“单一信息源”范式(Vanderbilt, Heyman, & Liu, 2014; see also Jaswal, Carrington Croft, Setia, & Cole 2010), 实验中儿童只接收了他人给出的一种模式解释, 并没有其它备选的陈词进行记忆或泛化。未来研究可以同时向儿童呈现两种模式的解释, 进一步探讨他们对不同模式解释的选择性采纳问题。

综上所述, 现有研究显示, 年幼儿童对不同模式的解释没有表现出选择偏好, 而年长的儿童则在不同领域问题下表现出对不同模式解释的偏向性。目前还没有研究考察年长儿童对不同模式解释的选择性采纳情况, 且仅有的以年幼儿童为对象的研究存在局限性, 研究者无法根据现有研究结果得出统一的结论。儿童无差别地学习不同模式的解释有其合理性, 这可以使经验匮乏的儿童掌握多种解释, 为儿童提供多样的认识途径。但是这种无选择的学习也有不合理的地方, 虽然目的功能解释与因果机制解释都具有解释与预测功能, 但在理解特定领域问题时, 其中一种模式的解释更具优势(Lombrozo & Wilkenfeld, 2018)。特别是当人们有明确的推断目的时, 两种解释在人们的评估上存在着竞争关系(Lombrozo & Gwynne, 2014; Vasilyeva et al., 2015)。所以, 儿童需要发展出成熟的认知能力, 在面对不同领域问题时灵活地选择采纳适宜的解释性陈词。

4 总结与展望

本文重点梳理了解释的特征(包括解释的言语线索、结构特征和模式)在儿童辨别、评估和采纳他人解释时的作用。年幼儿童尚且不能从多种陈述中区分出适宜的解释, 随着年龄增长, 儿童逐渐可以根据这些特征从他人的回答中区分出有效的解释性陈述, 从多个解释中区分出优质的解释。儿童对上述线索、特征的认识与运用反映了他们认知的递进式发展。但从目前的研究成果来看, 仍有以下问题亟待解决:

第一, 未来研究应进一步考察解释的言语线索在儿童选择性因果学习中的作用。解释的言语线索能帮助人们辨别解释的有效性, 但也可能在人们评估解释质量时产生消极影响。例如, 研究发现在给成人解释心理现象时, 神经科学术语可以歪曲人们对解释的评价, 使得一些不好的解释变得可以接受。研究者称这种现象为“‘诱惑’效应” (“seductive allure” effect; Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson, & Gray, 2008)。后续研究进一步发现, 解释说明的长度或者其中包含大脑定位信息都提高了人们对解释的质量评估(Weisberg, Taylor, & Hopkins, 2015)。这种效应也表现在许多其他学科领域, 特别是带有强烈还原论思想的学科(Hopkins, Weisberg, & Taylor, 2016)。有研究探讨了陈述的长度在学前儿童选择性因果学习中的作用, 发现学前儿童对中等长度的解释性陈述更为满意, 记忆保持效果更好(Frazier et al., 2016)。研究者认为, 科学术语、陈述长度等可能是专业性的信号, 使得人们盲目认为这些是解释充分的标志(Lombrozo, 2016)。对于儿童来说, 当他人给出的解释性陈词过于繁杂或冗长时, 言语线索产生的上述效应可能会扭曲儿童对他人陈词的评估, 甚至可能影响儿童对他人解释的选择性学习。未来研究在探讨儿童的选择性因果学习时, 应拓展对解释言语线索的关注, 探讨解释的理解难易程度在儿童对解释进行辨别与采纳过程中的作用。

第二, 未来研究需要考察解释的其他特征(特别是内容特征)对儿童选择性因果学习的作用。一方面, 在不同情境下, 解释的特征对个体判断的影响不同。以解释的循环性为例, 从其内容特征上来说, 有时循环的解释性陈述也会被认为是可接受的。有研究发现, 人们会对一些循环论证的解释抱有较高的接纳程度(Prasada & Dillingham, 2006), 如“为什么她要穿粉色衣服?” “因为她是个女孩”。这个解释是循环论证的, 但人们可以通过这个陈述认识到“穿粉衣服”与“女孩”之间具有某种有意义的联系, 进而认为该解释是可接受的(see also Chin-Parker & Bradner, 2010)。这类解释实质上是对Aristotle的“形式因”的表述, 即通过解释要素与待解释对象的类属关系来为现象属性做辩护。在这种情况下, 循环的解释指出了形式因, 可能会促使人们认为它是合理的陈述。未来研究需要探讨儿童对这种形式解释的评估与选择, 这个方向的研究不仅有助于研究者继续深入理解儿童的选择性因果学习, 也有助于研究者理解儿童的社会类属认知(Prasada, 2017; see also Gelman, Cimpian, & Roberts, 2018; Sutherland & Cimpian, 2018)。另一方面, 解释的优点众多, 如一致性(coherence; 指解释内容与其前后陈述逻辑、与个体的已有知识或与客观证据的相符程度)、完整性(completeness; 指解释内容存在内容缺漏的程度)等(Glymour, 2015; Keil, 2006; Zemla, Sloman, Bechlivanidis, & Lagnado, 2017)。然而, 目前考察解释质量对儿童选择性因果学习影响的研究, 主要集中在简易性和广度等结构特征上。仅探讨结构特征的作用是局限的, 后续研究需要进一步考察解释的内容特征对儿童选择性因果学习的作用。

第三, 目前关于解释模式的领域性问题结论不一。解释具有领域性, 不同领域问题的解释具有不同的特征(Keil, 2006)。研究表明, 幼儿会自发产生不同模式的解释, 且表现出领域特殊性的特点(Sánchez Tapia et al., 2016; see also Hickling & Wellman, 2001; Keil, 1992)。亦有研究结果不支持上述观点:2~5岁儿童对父母给出的不同模式的解释性陈述并未表现出不同的跟进反应(Frazier et al., 2009), 且他们对不同模式解释的迁移效果也相差无几(Lombrozo et al., 2018)。这些结果支持解释模式具有领域一般性的特点, 但其结论具有一定局限性。Frazier等人(2009)没有将儿童对解释的评估按照问题领域进行分别考察, 仅从总体上探讨儿童对不同解释的跟进反应; Lombrozo等人(2018)考察儿童对不同模式解释进行保持与迁移时没有排除儿童的先验解释模式倾向对研究结果的影响, 选取了儿童带有自发解释偏好的问题领域。未来研究可选取儿童没有先验解释偏好的领域, 例如动物和人造物的动态属性(行为或运动) (Sanchez Tapia et al., 2016), 作为研究的问题材料。此外, 未来研究应该将问题领域作为变量, 考察儿童在不同领域问题中对不同模式解释的选择性学习, 进一步探究解释模式的领域一般性或领域特殊性问题。

第四, 后续研究需要进一步探讨儿童对他人解释性陈词进行选择性学习的认知发展机制。一方面, 成人偏好简易的解释是基于理性判断的, 这种选择倾向源于简易解释在预测和控制中的独特作用(Pacer & Lombrozo, 2017)。但是, 儿童偏好简易的和范围广的解释是基于启发式做出的判断, 还是儿童在考虑解释预测力的基础上进行的理性判断(e.g. Hermes et al., 2018)?这一问题仍待探讨。另一方面, 儿童对不同模式解释的辨别与采纳存在发展上的差异, 目前的研究缺乏对其机制的探讨。例如, 儿童选择性因果学习的发展变化可能是他们有效提问能力逐渐成熟的结果。3~5岁幼儿提出的问题通常模棱两可(如“为什么这样”) (Kelemen et al., 2005), 但随着年龄的增长, 儿童的提问越来越明确、有效(Ruggeri & Lombrozo, 2015; Ruggeri, Lombrozo, Griffiths, & Xu, 2016)。到11、12岁时, 儿童已经能够提出明确的因果机制类问题(Luce & Hsi, 2015)。提问是为了有效地获取信息, 它反映了人们对答案范围的预期(Harris, 2012; Ronfard, Zambrana et al., 2018)。未来研究者需要考察儿童有效提问的能力和选择性学习之间的关系, 揭示认知能力的发展在选择性因果学习中的作用。总之, 探究儿童选择性因果学习的认知发展机制有助于深入认识儿童认知能力及其发展潜力, 揭示个体通过外部资源获取知识的能力的起源。

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This special issue was motivated by the recent, wide-ranging interest in the development of children's selective social learning. Human beings have a far-reaching dependence on others for information, and the focus of this issue is on the processes by which children selectively and intelligently learn from others. It showcases some of the finest current work in this area and also aims to encourage new lines of investigation and new ways of thinking about how children learn from others. This issue also serves to highlight this new direction in basic research for the broader con unity of researchers, educators, and practitioners. Research on issues related to the facilitation of social learning has clear relevance to early educational contexts. In addition, by bringing together a varied pool of research on the same general topic, developmental scientists can discern the consistencies and themes that emerge from their collective efforts. The work presented here illustrates the breadth of children's selectivity across ages and domains of development, and it highlights the growing range of methods that can be recruited to investigate selectivity. This new research leads the field to reconsider the various ways in which social information guides learning and calls for novel theoretical accounts of these developments.

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Preschoolers use outcomes of actions to infer causal properties of objects. We asked whether they also use them to infer others' causal abilities and knowledge. In Experiment 1, preschoolers saw 2 informants, 2 tools, and 2 broken toys. One informant (the labeler) knew the names of the tools, but his actions failed to activate the toys. The other (the fixer) was ignorant about the names of the tools, but his actions succeeded in activating the toys. Four-year-olds (and to a lesser extent, 3-year-olds) selectively directed requests for new labels to the labeler and directed requests to fix new broken toys to the fixer. In a second experiment, 4-year-olds also endorsed a fixer's (over a nonfixer's) causal explanations for mechanical failures. They did not, however, ask the fixer about new words (Experiments 1 and 2) or artifact functions (Experiment 1). Thus, preschoolers take demonstrated causal ability as a sign of specialized causal knowledge, which suggests a basis for developing ideas about causal expertise.

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Abstract

What makes some explanations better than others? This paper explores the roles of simplicity and probability in evaluating competing causal explanations. Four experiments investigate the hypothesis that simpler explanations are judged both better and more likely to be true. In all experiments, simplicity is quantified as the number of causes invoked in an explanation, with fewer causes corresponding to a simpler explanation. Experiment 1 confirms that all else being equal, both simpler and more probable explanations are preferred. Experiments 2 and 3 examine how explanations are evaluated when simplicity and probability compete. The data suggest that simpler explanations are assigned a higher prior probability, with the consequence that disproportionate probabilistic evidence is required before a complex explanation will be favored over a simpler alternative. Moreover, committing to a simple but unlikely explanation can lead to systematic overestimation of the prevalence of the cause invoked in the simple explanation. Finally, Experiment 4 finds that the preference for simpler explanations can be overcome when probability information unambiguously supports a complex explanation over a simpler alternative. Collectively, these findings suggest that simplicity is used as a basis for evaluating explanations and for assigning prior probabilities when unambiguous probability information is absent. More broadly, evaluating explanations may operate as a mechanism for generating estimates of subjective probability.

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Both philosophers and psychologists have argued for the existence of distinct kinds of explanations, including teleological explanations that cite functions or goals, and mechanistic explanations that cite causal mechanisms. Theories of causation, in contrast, have generally been unitary, with dominant theories focusing either on counterfactual dependence or on physical connections. This paper argues that both approaches to causation are psychologically real, with different modes of explanation promoting judgments more or less consistent with each approach. Two sets of experiments isolate the contributions of counterfactual dependence and physical connections in causal ascriptions involving events with people, artifacts, or biological traits, and manipulate whether the events are construed teleologically or mechanistically. The findings suggest that when events are construed teleologically, causal ascriptions are sensitive to counterfactual dependence and relatively insensitive to the presence of physical connections, but when events are construed mechanistically, causal ascriptions are sensitive to both counterfactual dependence and physical connections. The conclusion introduces an account of causation, an &ldquo;exportable dependence theory,&rdquo; that provides a way to understand the contributions of physical connections and teleology in terms of the functions of causal ascriptions.

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We review the literature on infants&rsquo; perception of pitch and temporal patterns, relating it to comparable research with human adult and non-human listeners. Although there are parallels in relative pitch processing across age and species, there are notable differences. Infants accomplish such tasks with ease, but non-human listeners require extensive training to achieve very modest levels of performance. In general, human listeners process auditory sequences in a holistic manner, and non-human listeners focus on absolute aspects of individual tones. Temporal grouping processes and categorization on the basis of rhythm are evident in non-human listeners and in human infants and adults. Although synchronization to sound patterns is thought to be uniquely human, tapping to music, synchronous firefly flashing, and other cyclic behaviors can be described by similar mathematical principles. We conclude that infants&rsquo; music perception skills are a product of general perceptual mechanisms that are neither music- nor species-specific. Along with general-purpose mechanisms for the perceptual foundations of music, we suggest unique motivational mechanisms that can account for the perpetuation of musical behavior in all human societies.

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