Imagined Interventions: Tunnels

Summer 2012

Rotem Aboody : Psychology, Education (minor)

Mentor: Alison Gopnik, Psychology

Why do children spend so much time engaged in pretend play, imagining fictional scenarios? Could children actually be learning new things through this process, exploring new possibilities inaccessible to them in daily life? My SURF project seeks to explore whether imagination can indeed enable children to learn about and successfully intervene on novel causal structures, even in the absence of a demonstration of the structures. Children will be introduced to a novel causal structure, and will be asked to choose one of three possible interventions on the structure to produce the highest probability of a desired result. Will the process of imagining outcomes produce higher accuracy in the absence of a demonstration of a novel causal system? This project not only serves as my honors thesis in Psychology, but also explores the little-understood relationship between imagination and probabilistic causal learning in preschoolers. 

The SURF fellowship has provided me with the opportunity to remain in Berkeley over the summer, and engage in research for my honors thesis. This opportunity is invaluable, as psychological research concerning children is extremely time-consuming. The SURF fellowship has not only allowed me to dedicate my time to the work I feel most passionate about, but it is also allowing me to conceive of and to execute a much more polished and meaningful honors thesis experiment. The fellowship thus serves the dual purposes of better preparing me for graduate school, while also allowing me to potentially produce a peer-reviewed publication.