Visit by Susan Carey

On May 18-24, 2015, Susan Carey from Harvard University visited Umeå Mathematics Education Research Centre (UMERC). During her visit, she participated in different seminars and worked together with members of UMERC.

Susan Carey was the third invited researcher for the Hans Wallin Lectures.


Monday, May 18

10:00-12:00, room N360

"Theories of Development: In Dialog with Jean Piaget"

Piaget’s body of work had two major theoretical thrusts: constructivism and stage theory. Both constructivism and stage theories articulate modern work on conceptual development as well, albeit transformed by developments in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. A case study of conceptual change in childhood within a framework theory of intuitive biology illustrates the current status of Piaget’s two theoretical thrusts.

Tuesday, May 19

13:00-15:00, room N300

"Concept Acquisition: Beyond Logical Construction and the Building Blocks Model"

A theory of conceptual development must provide an account of the innate representational repertoire, must characterize how these initial representations differ from the adult state, and must provide an account of the processes that transform the initial into mature representations.  In Carey (2009; The Origin of Concepts, TOOC), I  defend three theses:  1) the initial state includes rich conceptual representations, 2) nonetheless, there are radical discontinuities between early and later developing conceptual systems, 3) Quinian bootstrapping is one learning mechanism that underlies the creation of new representational resources.  I also claim that the theory of conceptual development developed in TOOC addresses two of Fodor’s challenges to cognitive science; namely, to show how learning could possibly lead to an increase in expressive power and to defeat Mad Dog Nativism, the thesis that all concepts lexicalized as mono-morphemic words are innate.  The key to meeting both of these challenges is is to show that, and how, new primitives in a language of thought can be learned, that there are easy routes and hard ones to doing so, and that understanding the learning mechanisms involved in each case is central to the argument for deep discontinuities in the course of concept acquisition.

Susan Carey

Susan Carey is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. She is an expert in conceptual development and language development, especially among children and infants, with broad competence in areas diverse as biology and numeracy. Carey is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences.  She has received many academic awards and distinctions, including the Jean Nicod Prize for philosophy of mind in 1998. She was the first woman to receive the Rumelhart Prize in 2009, which has been given annually since 2001 to recognize significant contributions to the theoretical foundation of human cognition. Among her numerous publications is a recent book called The Origin of Concepts, which builds on results from both psychology and philosophy to challenge views about concept acquisition including those of Piaget.

Page Editor: Tomas Bergqvist

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