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date: 31 March 2023

Early Cognitive Development: Five Lessons from Infant Learninglocked

Early Cognitive Development: Five Lessons from Infant Learninglocked

  • Sabine HunniusSabine HunniusDonders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior; Radboud University


Young children develop at a breathtaking rate. Within just a few years, they change from helpless newborns into schoolchildren with all the abilities and skills needed to start formal education. To understand how such rapid cognitive development is at all possible, we can turn to five fundamental principles of infant learning: First, infants come into this world equipped to learn. From early on, they are sensitive to statistical information in their environment and readily detect and retain statistical structures they observe. Second, infants use this information to build predictive models of the world. Moreover, they are able to continuously and flexibly update these models in light of new information. Third, infant learning is fast and effective because it is supported by early existing attentional biases. Infants allocate attention to and preferably explore stimuli that are optimally informative. Fourth, adult interaction partners create ideal learning opportunities for infants by skillfully adapting their behavior to infants’ attentional preferences and learning capabilities. Fifth, infants’ learning is impacted by the development of their bodies and brains. These developmental changes modify the way infants engage with their environment and provide them with new learning experiences. In sum, the intricate interaction of infants’ basic learning mechanisms, their attentional and exploration biases, and their social exchanges brings about the astonishing developmental changes of early childhood.


  • Developmental Psychology

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