Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hasty Generalization

After they've learnt words and sentences, kids go on to reason. They start forming knowledge of the form "All A is B", i.e. principles. For the first few years, they have a tendency toward hasty generalization. For instance, a kid who has never seen a male elementary teacher can easily conclude: "All elementary teachers are female".

I've encountered many examples of this in my son. Often, individual examples come as a surprise to me -- a reminder of how little he knows about the world.

When he was about 6 we were talking about the ryhme, "Rain rain go away", and he commented that it sometimes works! Presumably he'd been experimenting! I realized that if a kid sang that song a few times when it rained, and it stopped raining even once, he might draw the conclusion that "it sometimes works", even if he's not sure exactly when: could it be the volume, the tone, getting the words just right?

When my son was really small I used to think to myself that small kids are so much like little animals, only much less self-sufficient. Around 6 and 7, one gets a glimpse of how primitive men must think. It's only a glimpse, because our kids are provided with so many true facts now, that they believe the right things. However, in an instance like this "rain, go away" example, one sees a little sliver of hasty generalization.


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