Explanatory Preferences Shape Learning and Inference

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Explanations play an important role in learning and inference. People often learn by seeking explanations, and they assess the viability of hypotheses by considering how well they explain the data. An emerging body of work reveals that both children and adults have strong and systematic intuitions about what constitutes a good explanation, and that these explanatory preferences have a systematic impact on explanation-based processes. In particular, people favor explanations that are simple and broad, with the consequence that engaging in explanation can shape learning and inference by leading people to seek patterns and favor hypotheses that support broad and simple explanations. Given the prevalence of explanation in everyday cognition, understanding explanation is therefore crucial to understanding learning and inference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)748-759
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume20
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Keywords

  • abduction
  • breadth
  • explanation
  • inference
  • learning
  • simplicity

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