Ohio State University study: Young children would rather explore than get rewards

13 Aug

Children are not “mini mes” or short adults. They are children and they should have time to play, to dream, and to use their imagination. Alison Gopnik wrote an excellent article which appeared in Slate reporting about the results of two studies, Why Preschool Shouldn’t Be Like School:

In the first study, MIT professor Laura Schulz, her graduate student Elizabeth Bonawitz, and their colleagues looked at how 4-year-olds learned about a new toy with four tubes. Each tube could do something interesting: If you pulled on one tube it squeaked, if you looked inside another tube you found a hidden mirror, and so on. For one group of children, the experimenter said: “I just found this toy!” As she brought out the toy, she pulled the first tube, as if by accident, and it squeaked. She acted surprised (“Huh! Did you see that? Let me try to do that!”) and pulled the tube again to make it squeak a second time. With the other children, the experimenter acted more like a teacher. She said, “I’m going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!” and deliberately made the tube squeak. Then she left both groups of children alone to play with the toy. …
As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions….
These experts in machine learning argue that learning from teachers first requires you to learn about teachers. For example, if you know how teachers work, you tend to assume that they are trying to be informative. When the teacher in the tube-toy experiment doesn’t go looking for hidden features inside the tubes, the learner unconsciously thinks: “She’s a teacher. If there were something interesting in there, she would have showed it to me.” These assumptions lead children to narrow in, and to consider just the specific information a teacher provides. Without a teacher present, children look for a much wider range of information and consider a greater range of options.
Knowing what to expect from a teacher is a really good thing, of course: It lets you get the right answers more quickly than you would otherwise. Indeed, these studies show that 4-year-olds understand how teaching works and can learn from teachers. But there is an intrinsic trade-off between that kind of learning and the more wide-ranging learning that is so natural for young children. Knowing this, it’s more important than ever to give children’s remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies. http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/03/why_preschool_shouldnt_be_like_school.html

In the rush to produce baby Einsteins and child prodigies, perhaps we are missing the creativity that play activities by preschoolers produces.

See,  https://drwilda.com/tag/charter-school/

drwilda.com/tag/early-childhood-development/

Science Daily reported in Young children would rather explore than get rewards:

Young children will pass up rewards they know they can collect to explore other options, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that when adults and 4- to 5-year-old children played a game where certain choices earned them rewards, both adults and children quickly learned what choices would give them the biggest returns.

But while adults then used that knowledge to maximize their prizes, children continued exploring the other options, just to see if their value may have changed.

“Exploration seems to be a major driving force during early childhood — even outweighing the importance of immediate rewards,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.

“We believe it is because young children need to explore to help them understand how the world works.”

And despite what adults may think, kids’ search for new discoveries is anything but random. Results showed children approached exploration systematically, to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

“When adults think of kids exploring, they may think of them as running around aimlessly, opening drawers and cupboards, picking up random objects,” Sloutsky said

“But it turns out their exploration isn’t random at all…”                                                                                                sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200812153637.htm

Citation:

Young children would rather explore than get rewards

Study finds their exploration is not random

Date:       August 12, 2020

Source:   Ohio State University

Summary:

Young children will pass up rewards they know they can collect to explore other options, a new study suggests. Researchers found that when adults and 4- to 5-year-old children played a game where certain choices earned them rewards, both adults and children quickly learned what choices would give them the biggest returns. But while adults then used that knowledge to maximize their prizes, children continued exploring the other options.

Journal Reference:

Nathaniel J. Blanco, Vladimir M. Sloutsky. Systematic Exploration and Uncertainty Dominate Young Children’s ChoicesDevelopmental Science, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/desc.13026

Here is the press release from Ohio State University:

Young children would rather explore than get rewards

Study finds their exploration is not random

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Young children will pass up rewards they know they can collect to explore other options, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that when adults and 4- to 5-year-old children played a game where certain choices earned them rewards, both adults and children quickly learned what choices would give them the biggest returns.

But while adults then used that knowledge to maximize their prizes, children continued exploring the other options, just to see if their value may have changed.

“Exploration seems to be a major driving force during early childhood – even outweighing the importance of immediate rewards,” said Vladimir Sloutsky, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.

“We believe it is because young children need to explore to help them understand how the world works.”

And despite what adults may think, kids’ search for new discoveries is anything but random. Results showed children approached exploration systematically, to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

“When adults think of kids exploring, they may think of them as running around aimlessly, opening drawers and cupboards, picking up random objects,” Sloutsky said

“But it turns out their exploration isn’t random at all.”

Sloutsky conducted the study with Nathaniel Blanco, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Ohio State. Their results were published online recently in the journal Developmental Science.

The researchers conducted two studies. One study involved 32 4-year-olds and 34 adults.

On a computer screen, participants were shown four alien creatures. When participants clicked on each creature, they were given a set number of virtual candies.

One creature was clearly the best, giving 10 candies, while the others gave 1, 2 and 3 candies, respectively. Those amounts never changed for each creature over the course of the experiment.

The goal was to earn as much candy as possible over 100 trials. (The children could turn their virtual candies into real stickers at the end of the experiment.)

As expected, the adults learned quickly which creature gave the most candies and selected that creature 86 percent of the time. But children selected the highest-reward creature only 43 percent of the time.

And it wasn’t because the children didn’t realize which choice would reap them the largest reward. In a memory test after the study, 20 of 22 children correctly identified which creature delivered the most candy.

“The children were not motivated by achieving the maximum reward to the extent that adults were,” Blanco said. “Instead, children seemed primarily motivated by the information gained through exploring.”

But what was interesting was that the children didn’t just click randomly on the creatures, Sloutsky said.

When they didn’t click on the option with the highest reward, they were most likely to go through the other choices systematically, to ensure they never went too long without testing each individual choice.

“The longer they didn’t check a particular option, the less certain they were on its value and the more they wanted to check it again,” he said.

In a second study, the game was similar but the value of three of the four choices was visible – only one was hidden. The option that was hidden was randomly determined in each trial, so it changed nearly every time. But the values of all four choices never changed, even when it was the hidden one.

Like in the first experiment, the 37 adults chose the best option on almost every trial, 94 percent of the time. That was much more than the 36 4- and 5-year-old children, who selected the highest-value option only 40 percent of the time.

When the hidden option was the highest-value option, adults chose it 84 percent of the time, but otherwise they almost never selected it (2 percent of the time).

Children chose the hidden option about 40 percent of the time – and it didn’t matter if it was the highest value one or not.

“The majority of the children were attracted to the uncertainty of the hidden option. They wanted to explore that choice,” Sloutsky said.

However, there were some individual differences in children, he noted. A few children, for example, acted much like adults and nearly always chose the highest-value option. In the second experiment, a few children almost always avoided the hidden option.

These variations may have to do with different levels of cognitive maturation in children, he said.

But it appears that all children go through a phase where systematic exploration is one of their main goals.

“Even though we knew that children like to run around and investigate things, we’re now learning that there is a lot of regularity to their behavior,” Sloutsky said.

“Children’s seemingly erratic behavior at this age appears to be largely molded by a drive to stockpile information,” added Blanco.

###

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Contact: Vladimir Sloutsky, Sloutsky.1@osu.eduWritten by Jeff Grabmeier, 614-292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

This blog wholeheartedly supports charters, but more important, this blog supports school choice. One of the principles of this blog is that all children have a right to a good basic education. There are a variety of ways that each child will receive that good basic education and the choice should be left to the parents or guardians. The only caveat should be that if the education option is failing to educate that child, there should be other alternatives to choose from. Charters are governed by state law which authorizes them and sets the parameters for operation. One of the reasons many support charters is it is at least theoretically possible for failing schools to be closed. There are going to be good education options of all types and there will be failures of public school, private schools, and homeschools. Just as success is not attributed to all choices in a category, the fact that a public school or charter school is a failure does not mean that ALL public schools or ALL charter schools are failure. People, use a little discernment. Many are so caught up in their particular political agenda that they lose sight of the goal, which is that all children have a right to a good basic education.

Related:

‘Hybrid’ homeschooling is growing                                         https://drwilda.com/2012/08/16/hybrid-homeschooling-is-growing/

New book: Homeschooling, the little option that could  https://drwilda.com/2012/10/12/new-book-homeschooling-the-little-option-that-could/

Homeschooled kids make the grade for college
https://drwilda.com/2012/07/02/homeschooled-kids-make-the-grade-for-college/

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