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 Post subject: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #1 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:38 am 
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In viewtopic.php?p=132238#p132238 Amelia states: "Children learn very fast by example. Their brain is developping and they can assign whole areas to new topics. Adults are more stuck in their way and need roundabout ways to use their already structured brain for new things. [...] Adults learning a new topic need to make connections with existing reasoning structures that they have."

I disagree with in particular these statements, because I think they are too general. Surely there are children or adults with the described learning behaviour, but there are also contrary examples. Therefore, I prefer to state: Some children learn very fast by example, others very slowly. Some children learn very fast by general principle (*), others very slowly. Some adults need, for new things, references to known structures in their brain, other adults can develop (*) new structures and store new kinds of reasoning for new things. (I was / am an example for (*).)

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #2 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:50 am 
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I have to agree with Roberts assessment here. I think, regarding adult learning, that adults are capable of learning faster than children, provided that they immerse themselves in the medium to the same degree that children do.

Since languages tend to come up a lot in this kind of discussion (as in Amelia's post that spawned this thread), there are a couple of points to be made. First, children are extremely lazy when learning languages; they will learn exactly the minimum number of languages necessary to communicate effectively with everyone in their daily lives, which is the bane of immigrant parents trying to teach their children their native language. If, in the US for example, the parents both speak English as well, and do not have monolingual speakers in the household or commonly around, the children will most frequently reject learning the parents' language fluently.

Secondly, adults who learn a second language usually do not function exclusively or almost exclusively in that second language. Frequently, the first language is spoken at home with a spouse, media is preferentially consumed in the first language, etc. As is the premise of sites like http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/, an adult completely and exclusively immersed in a second language environment can learn to speak fluently and with an appropriate accent, generally in less time than it would take a child to achieve the same level of competence. However, actively managing one's environment to maintain that exclusivity is quite difficult because of the existing first language competence.

Of course, the problem with this as regards go is that children tend to have so much more free time and so many fewer obligations than working adults.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #3 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:25 am 
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Well, I was speaking in general terms. First, there isn't a straight line between children and adults and one day you hope over it. In terms of brain development, there is a huge difference between a 2 years old, an 8 years old, a 14 years old. And it's also not the same to be 20, 40 or 70.
In general, the younger the child, the less general principles and abstract concepts are likely to be helpful. The older a person, the more they will usually try to rely on general principles for the learning of new concepts. At some age the memory starts to get old and so the use of a huge amount of individual examples becomes less.

But of course, there are exceptions. And not all 8 years old learn like every other 8 years old. Some people have a very own way in terms of brain development and learning patterns anyway. For example autistic people, or those people that the medical world (somewhat misleadingly) calls gifted, have very, very different ways to manage information. Those are extreme examples where development is very different from the usual observations, but obviously most people are just that little bit different from each other and respond differently to different learning methods.

I think my point still stands, though, that if a training method is developped entirely for teaching children, then it may not be that great a method to (most) adults.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #4 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:32 am 
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I think, regarding adult learning, that adults are capable of learning faster than children, provided that they immerse themselves in the medium to the same degree that children do.

I don't think so, and especially not if you try to use for adults the same methods than for young kids ("go and learn somehow").

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First, children are extremely lazy when learning languages

That wasn't my point. I don't think we were discussing people who DON'T want to learn go here. Adults who don't want to learn will not learn languages either or very bad. That's because learning a language is hard work, whatever age you are. So is learning go.

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Secondly, adults who learn a second language usually do not function exclusively or almost exclusively in that second language.
I function in german exclusively and have done so for the last seven years, except when I check facebook, and when I call my parents at weekend.
I'm sure a kid would talk with less accent than I do in seven years (although arguably he would almost certainly know much more slang and much less grammar :-))

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Of course, the problem with this as regards go is that children tend to have so much more free time and so many fewer obligations than working adults.
It is an advantage for the children obviously, but not the only one I think.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #5 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:39 am 
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Amelia wrote:
I think my point still stands, though, that if a training method is developped entirely for teaching children, then it may not be that great a method to (most) adults.


I would agree with this. Adults generally have a much broader set of references to draw on, but also tend to be more fearful of failure and so less willing to experiment.

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Post #6 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:57 am 
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skydyr wrote:
Amelia wrote:
I think my point still stands, though, that if a training method is developped entirely for teaching children, then it may not be that great a method to (most) adults.


I would agree with this. Adults generally have a much broader set of references to draw on, but also tend to be more fearful of failure and so less willing to experiment.


Your point is very relevant. I have observed that in go and also very much in language courses: those people who will not talk at all because they're not sure of the syntax... or will not play a move because they can't read it out (oh, wait, that's me). Not getting over that fear can be a big hindrance in learning new concepts.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #7 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:07 am 
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Robert, even in your case, I would wager that your ability to learn via principles was greater in your twenties than as a child.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #8 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 2:13 pm 
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Children may be a bit more plastic as well... There is a notable phenomenon where in an immigrant family with (say) a ten year old and an eight year old, the ten year-old has an accent for life and the younger sibling loses his accent completely. Perhaps we could say (to tie it in to go) that children are bad enough at pattern recognition that they can't get locked into bad habits, or habits that subsequently become bad. -- but by and large I think skydr's post nails it.

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Post #9 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:14 pm 
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jts wrote:
Children may be a bit more plastic as well.


Children's brains are not just a bit more plastic. The physical architecture of their brains is still not fully formed. It is mostly formed by adolescence, but, IIUC, recent research has shown that it continues to form into adulthood. I believe that there are indications for chess that short term memory may be enlarged to provide for the calculation of variations. I have not heard of any research on go in that regard, though.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #10 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:17 pm 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
I disagree with in particular these statements, because I think they are too general. Surely there are children or adults with the described learning behaviour, but there are also contrary examples.


Yes, generalizations are bad!

Who would want to generalize who learns in what way?

I mean, imagine if, in addition to making generalizations about children and adults, we went so far to make threads to generalize who teaches in what way - say between western countries and eastern countries.

Things are getting out of hand!

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #11 Posted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 11:36 pm 
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hyperpape, my ability to learn from principles was about as great as a 4 years old child as it was later and is today. (I do not recall well the degree of my ability to learn from examples at the age of 4.)

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Post #12 Posted: Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:37 am 
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skydyr wrote:
Since languages tend to come up a lot in this kind of discussion (as in Amelia's post that spawned this thread), there are a couple of points to be made. First, children are extremely lazy when learning languages; they will learn exactly the minimum number of languages necessary to communicate effectively with everyone in their daily lives, which is the bane of immigrant parents trying to teach their children their native language. If, in the US for example, the parents both speak English as well, and do not have monolingual speakers in the household or commonly around, the children will most frequently reject learning the parents' language fluently.


So we're raising our kids bilingually. Irish and English. Irish is almost never spoken outside of a handful of Gaeltachts which are areas primarily consisting of Irish native speakers (we don't live in one of these). To put it in context, there are between 5 and 10 Polish speakers for every Irish speaker in Ireland (I forget the exact number and it depends on which estimate of Irish speakers you use, it's between 20,000 and 100,000 depending on how you define Irish speaker in a population of over 4 million). So we're analogous to an immigrant family trying to preserve their language in some ways.

How you do it, one parent speaks language A, the other language B with the minority language being spoken exclusively by that parent. My wife has never uttered a sentence in English to my kids. If my parents are around and we're all speaking English including the kids and she needs to correct one of the kids or talk to them she'll switch to Irish. They speak only Irish to her. They similarly only speak English to me. Even if I ask them something in Irish they'll respond in English.


There are no monolingual Irish speakers left, at all. Yet it's perfectly possible to raise native Irish speakers outside of the Gaeltacht regions. You just need to be consistent about it. Where the difficulty comes is later in life if they don't have a reason to speak Irish as adults, then the skills can degrade and so on. But at childhood level it's perfectly possible to raise children in a minority language. Getting them to continue using the language as adults is not however something you can control.


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Post #13 Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:05 pm 
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RobertJasiek wrote:
hyperpape, my ability to learn from principles was about as great as a 4 years old child as it was later and is today. (I do not recall well the degree of my ability to learn from examples at the age of 4.)
Perhaps we mean different things. For I would think from the fact that you would not be capable of following definitions in set theory, the rules of programming languages, etc, that it follows that you were less capable of learning via general principles at that age. What are you thinking of?

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Post #14 Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:26 pm 
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hyperpape wrote:
...For I would think from the fact that you would not be capable of following definitions in set theory, the rules of programming languages, etc, that it follows that you were less capable of learning via general principles at that age...


While I'm not sure that I believe that someone that's 4-years old has exactly the same capability to "learn general principles" as an adult, I don't know for sure that not being capable of following rules of programming languages implies that one is less capable of learning via general principles.

This is primarily because I don't believe that following definitions in set theory and following rules of programming languages are truly "general principles".

Typically prerequisite knowledge is utilized when thinking about set theory and programming languages. It may seem quite general and intuitive the first time you are formally taught these subjects, but past experiences and learning opportunities can be utilized in understanding the subjects, so I wouldn't say that we can compare an individual without this prerequisite experience and knowledge to someone with them, because then we are not comparing the ability to "learn via general principles".

What constitutes a general principle, to me, seems different between a 4-year-old and an adult. I don't know what skills 4-year-olds typically learn, but for example, if they make some sort of connection that these objects without corners can be called "circles", the discovery might be acquired, perhaps, by a general principle that they were able to acquire on their own.

Maybe that's a bad example. But still, it seems like a stretch to say that someone is bad at learning general principles if they don't easily catch on to set theory or programming languages.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #15 Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:35 pm 
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hyperpape, the ability to learn well by principle is something different from the amount of already accumulated knowledge. Typically, an adult has more of the latter (e.g., he could have some more than a child about programming or set theory). A child applies his ability to learn by principle fitting his current knowledge, and an adult applies his ability to learn by principle fitting his currently greater knowledge.

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Post #16 Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:38 am 
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I believe the ability to learn by principle has a lot to do with capacity of abstraction. Abstract thinking means you can think of the concept "circle" without having to think of one specific red circle that's drawn on the paper on your desk. It's something small children's brains typically don't do very well. First they have to learn to identify circle-shaped things around them, only later do they acquire the ability to think of circles in general. So in Kirby's example, the kid will learn a new general principle by acquiring the idea of circle, but only after seeing lots and lots of circle and non-circle shapes. That's learning by example. If you try to tell them of circles in general before they have arrived to this point of their development, you will only confuse them. They will have no idea what you're talking about.

When someone is able to learn by general principle, you can define the principle to them and they will understand it without the support of lots of examples. They will mostly infer the examples from the principle. You tell them of a circle, and they can use that idea and start drawing circles athough they never saw one before. That's why I think it's related to abstract thinking.

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Post #17 Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:54 am 
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Some evidence for children learning by principle can be seen when they apply principles incorrectly, for example when they use regular forms for irregular verbs or irregular plurals that they don't know, such as: "I drawed you a picture" or "Tomorrow is the twenty tooth." Some kids will develop their own principles and extrapolate from them for example by calling all fuzzy things cats or assuming all men with white beards are Santa Claus.

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Post #18 Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:52 am 
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daal wrote:
Some evidence for children learning by principle can be seen when they apply principles incorrectly, for example when they use regular forms for irregular verbs or irregular plurals that they don't know, such as: "I drawed you a picture" or "Tomorrow is the twenty tooth." Some kids will develop their own principles and extrapolate from them for example by calling all fuzzy things cats or assuming all men with white beards are Santa Claus.

Exactly so - and I'm personally more surprised by other grammatical rules that children can follow so perfectly that most of us don't even realize they are rules until we a linguist ambushes us with some example sentences. We notice children over-generalizing with respect to the rules on plurals and past-tense because there are multiple conflicting rules and we have to guide children through adjudication, both in the family and in school.

Note the role of abstraction here. "Verb" is abstract, and "past tense" is abstract. "Number" is abstract, and "ordinal" is abstract. However, you only need the abstract concepts to describe the rule. Children can follow the rule long before they can describe it.

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Post #19 Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:24 am 
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jts wrote:
daal wrote:
Some evidence for children learning by principle can be seen when they apply principles incorrectly, for example when they use regular forms for irregular verbs or irregular plurals that they don't know, such as: "I drawed you a picture" or "Tomorrow is the twenty tooth." Some kids will develop their own principles and extrapolate from them for example by calling all fuzzy things cats or assuming all men with white beards are Santa Claus.

Exactly so - and I'm personally more surprised by other grammatical rules that children can follow so perfectly that most of us don't even realize they are rules until we a linguist ambushes us with some example sentences. We notice children over-generalizing with respect to the rules on plurals and past-tense because there are multiple conflicting rules and we have to guide children through adjudication, both in the family and in school.

Note the role of abstraction here. "Verb" is abstract, and "past tense" is abstract. "Number" is abstract, and "ordinal" is abstract. However, you only need the abstract concepts to describe the rule. Children can follow the rule long before they can describe it.


In bilingual kids it can be amusing. There's a verb in Irish déan, its meaning includes make and do but also encompasses some senses of perform, execute, manufacture, commit (in the sense of a crime) and so on. So it's a verb you use a lot, it gets even worse when combined into phrases e.g. ag déanamh uisce (doing water or making water literally) which means bilging. So translating it straight across to do/make/commit/whatever in English is risky.

So my three year old at the moment: "Will I do that for you Siún?" "Yeah you can make it Dada." "There you go, I did it for you." "Yeah you made it for me Dada."

She's not gotten old enough yet to not make this error. She hears do, translates it in her head as déan, and answers back with the most common English word she associates with déan which is make. My six year old son on the other hand never makes mistakes of this kind, the kind of thing he does is if he doesn't know a word in one language but he does in the other language he'll take the word from language B treat it as a word from language A and apply the associated grammatical rules to it and put it in a sentence in language A. So he could take an Irish word like marú (to kill), put it in the English past tense by forming marúed and put it in a sentence like "He was marúed." They don't tend to confuse the grammatical rules of the language, I've never seen him speaking in English and using Irish grammar, it's only with borrowed words that it gets a bit confused.

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 Post subject: Re: Learning by Children and Adults
Post #20 Posted: Mon Mar 18, 2013 9:19 am 
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daal wrote:
Some evidence for children learning by principle can be seen when they apply principles incorrectly, for example when they use regular forms for irregular verbs or irregular plurals that they don't know, such as: "I drawed you a picture" or "Tomorrow is the twenty tooth." Some kids will develop their own principles and extrapolate from them for example by calling all fuzzy things cats or assuming all men with white beards are Santa Claus.


Children go through three stages in learning the past tense of English irregular verbs. First, they learn the irregular forms. Then they apply the general rule, as in drawed, goed, eated. Then they go back to the irregular forms.

I'm not sure if I would call a general rule a principle, and I certainly would not call generalization the application of principles. For principles I would like abstraction, which most kids do not develop before age 8 or so.

A possibly embarrassing example of generalization is calling every man with glasses and a beard Daddy. ;) Don't laugh. I've had two children that I just met call me daddy. One of the mothers told me, "She calls every man with glasses and a beard Daddy." ;)

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