UC Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo on Explanations
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UC Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo on Explanations

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Tania Lombrozo on Explanations (from http://www.scaruffi.com/leonardo/nov2013.html )

Tania Lombrozo on Explanations (from http://www.scaruffi.com/leonardo/nov2013.html )

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UC Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo on Explanations UC Berkeley psychologist Tania Lombrozo on Explanations Document Transcript

  • 11/5/13 What makes an explanation beautiful? And why does it matter? Tania Lombrozo Department of Psychology UC Berkeley Richard Dawkins Alison Gopnik Daniel Dennett Mazharin Banaji Alan Alda Gerd Gigerenzer Richard Thaler Lisa Randall Scott Atran Eric Kandel 1
  • 11/5/13 Explanatory beauty Simplicity –  “simplicity” 50+ –  “simple” 100+ Scope –  “…the hallmark of a deep explanation is that it answers more than you ask.” (Max Tegmark) Pickiness is universal “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.” (Newton, 1687) "The aim of scientific explanation throughout the ages has been unification, i.e., the comprehending of a maximum of facts and regularities in terms of a minimum of theoretical concepts and assumptions" (Feigl, 1970). 2
  • 11/5/13 Three mysteries of explanation 1.  Pickiness. Why do we have systematic preferences for some explanations over others? In particular, why do we value simplicity and scope? 2.  Posthoc. Why do we bother explaining at all, especially what we’ve already observed? 3.  Productive. How can explanations support learning, even in the absence of new information? We seek explanations about what we’ve already observed 3
  • 11/5/13 Three mysteries of explanation 1.  Pickiness. Why do we have systematic preferences for some explanations over others? In particular, why do we value simplicity and scope? 2.  Posthoc. Why do we bother explaining at all, especially what we’ve already observed? 3.  Productive. How can explanations support learning, even in the absence of new information? Seeking explanations fosters learning “… the hypotheses we seek in explanation of past observations serve again in the prediction of future ones. Curiosity thus has survival value, despite having killed a cat.” (Quine & Ullian, The Web of Belief, 1970) W.V.O. Quine “…explanation is to theory formation as orgasm is to reproduction — the phenomenological mark of the fulfillment of an evolutionarily determined drive.” (Gopnik, 2000) Alison Gopnik 4
  • 11/5/13 “Learning by thinking” •  The self-explanation effect: –  Students who explain – even to themselves – typically learn material more effectively and generalize more readily to novel contexts. F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F7 F14 F13 F9 F12 F6 F11 F10 F2 F1 F4 F3 F5 F8 Three mysteries of explanation 1.  Pickiness. Why do we have systematic preferences for some explanations over others? In particular, why do we value simplicity and scope? 2.  Posthoc. Why do we bother explaining at all, especially what we’ve already observed? 3.  Productive. How can explanations support learning, even in the absence of new information? 5
  • 11/5/13 Thought experiments A demonstration Joseph Williams 75% Body Pattern 100% Foot Pattern 6
  • 11/5/13 Design overview Introduction Explain     vs     Control   Study Exp 1: Explain vs. Describe Exp 2: Explain vs. Think Aloud Exp 3: Explain vs. Free Study Glorp   or     Drent?   Categorization Differences?   Explicit report 100% Foot Pattern 75% Body Pattern Other Proportion Discovering 100% Pattern Explanation promotes discovery of broad patterns 0.5 Control Explain 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1 0 Describe N = 150 Think Aloud N = 240 Free Study N = 120 Williams & Lombrozo (2010), Cognitive Science 7
  • 11/5/13 What about young kids? Blicket Detector Caren Walker Joseph Williams Alison Gopnik Training: What makes it go? Explain: “Why did this one make my machine play music?” Blicket Detector Control: “What happened to my machine when I put this one on?” Green+ & Yellow-  100% pattern Red+ & White-  75% pattern 8
  • 11/5/13 Testing: Pick a rule GREEN versus RED. “Which one will make my machine turn on?” Green+ & Yellow-  100% pattern Red+ & White-  75% pattern Proportion of choices favoring 100% pattern Explanation favors broader rules …even in preschool-aged children 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 Control Explain. . Walker, Williams, Lombrozo, & Gopnik (2012) 9
  • 11/5/13 “Learning by thinking” F1 F7 F2 F3 F4 F5 F14 F13 F12 F6 F11 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F7 F14 F13 F9 F12 F6 F11 F10 F8 F2 F1 F9 F4 F10 F3 F5 F8 < F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F7 F14 F13 F9 F12 F6 F11 F10 F8 Three mysteries of explanation 1.  Pickiness. Why do we have systematic preferences for some explanations over others? In particular, why do we value simplicity and scope? 2.  Posthoc. Why do we bother explaining at all, especially what we’ve already observed? 3.  Productive. How can explanations support learning, even in the absence of new information? 10
  • 11/5/13 These mysteries are related Simp licity Explanation Scop e 11
  • 11/5/13 12
  • 11/5/13 Tania Lombrozo Department of Psychology UC Berkeley cognition.berkeley.edu 13