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Curiosity-based learning in infants: A neurocomputational approach

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
Article numbere12629
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/07/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Developmental Science
Issue number4
Volume21
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished
Early online date26/10/17
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Infants are curious learners who drive their own cognitive development by imposing structure on their learning environment as they explore. Understanding the mechanisms by which infants structure their own learning is therefore critical to our understanding of development. Here we propose an explicit mechanism for intrinsically motivated information selection that maximizes learning. We first present a neurocomputational model of infant visual category learning, capturing existing empirical data on the role of environmental complexity on learning. Next we “set the model free”, allowing it to select its own stimuli based on a formalization of curiosity and three alternative selection mechanisms. We demonstrate that maximal learning emerges when the model is able to maximize stimulus novelty relative to its internal states, depending on the interaction across learning between the structure of the environment and the plasticity in the learner itself. We discuss the implications of this new curiosity mechanism for both existing computational models of reinforcement learning and for our understanding of this fundamental mechanism in early development.