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  • In the Beginning was the Word | Developmental origins of intelligent behavior

In the Beginning was the Word | Developmental origins of intelligent behavior

  • July 07, 2021
  • 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM (EDT)
  • Zoom

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In the Beginning was the Word | Developmental origins of intelligent behavior

Elena Grigorenko and Michael Skeide

In the Beginning was the Word

In this presentation, Dr. Grigorenko will review the work on the manifestation, course, and etiology of developmental language disorders (DLD) that has been unfolding in her laboratory. She will provide a general overview of the field and then illustrate its various views with specific studies completed. Dr. Grigorenko will sample research from different contexts and different participant samples. Specifically, she will (1) delineate the current frontiers of the field with regard to its major empirical challenges and existing theoretical tensions; (2) indicate the field’s point of growth; and (3) outline the field’s perceived misconceptions. Dr. Grigorenko will primarily sample empirical research from her laboratory comparing and contrasting a(typical) language acquisition (1) in mono- and multilingual contexts; (2) by children developing in their biological families and orphaned children; and (3) by children with and without DLD. She will sample different languages (Arabic, African languages, English, and Russian) and countries (high- and middle- and low-income). In terms of the methodologies, she will illustrate the relevant empirical and theoretical points using behavior, brain, and genetic approaches. She will conclude with an overall statement regarding potential points of growth for the field and the description of the relevant research that is ongoing in her laboratory.

Developmental origins of intelligent behavior

Powered by recent advances in artificial intelligence, computer systems are now able to outperform humans in certain cognitive tasks. For example, there are algorithms that are better than us at recognizing handwritten letters or digits. In several hallmark domains of natural intelligence, however, even the smartest learning algorithms are hopelessly inferior to the remarkable learning capacities of human children. Driven by this fascination for learning, the overarching question I will address in my presentation is how uniquely human intelligent behavior emerges in the course of development. A particular focus will be how children learn to understand symbolic information (e.g., read words and grasp numbers), generate models of their experience (e.g., a quantification system) and use these models for problem solving. Going beyond descriptive developmental psychological theories, I will introduce an explanatory framework that anchors behavioral learning trajectories in interacting biological systems (environments, genes and brains). Building on this conceptual foundation, I will capture both universal principles and individual differences of learning (with an emphasis on dyslexia and dyscalculia). Moreover, I will talk about my field site research efforts (currently in rural Northern India) aiming for a better understanding of how learning is shaped by cultural diversity.

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