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    Active learning in infancy and adulthood: individual strategies for information sampling

    Gal, Cécile Gabrielle (2022) Active learning in infancy and adulthood: individual strategies for information sampling. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Humans are astounding learners. They don’t passively absorb information but actively engage in the process: they select information according to their own characteristics e.g., their state of knowledge, abilities, needs or goals, which has the potential to profoundly impact on how individuals experience the world. This PhD aimed to characterise different ways in which agents tailor their sampling of information to fit their priors’ strength, attentional skills, learning progress or executive functioning. In a first study (Chap. 2) conducted with adults, we looked at the influence of priors (prior access to informative stimuli) on visual objects recognition and exploration. Priors enabled participants to guide their fixations to quantitatively more informative locations when exploring ambiguous stimuli. However, presenting stimuli of varying ambiguity levels in a random fashion destroyed this ability to guide exploration with specific priors. In a second study (Chap. 3 and 4) using electroencephalography (EEG), we showed that 10-month-old infants’ parent-reported trait attention was linked to their processing of an information stream in which visual distractors interrupted an ongoing movie. Importantly, we found that infants’ trait sensory processing as reported by parents was not only linked to their engagement with the task, but also to their brain response to distractors, linking together several levels of individual differences in information processing. At the brain level, we found a crucial role of occipital high-frequency gamma-range EEG activity and, for the first time in infants, of its alignment with lower-frequency activity for blocking the processing of distractors vs. the ongoing video. These results bring in new and valuable information for theories of how the brain processes information and implements attentional mechanisms early on during life. Finally, in a last study, we looked at the influence of learning progress (Chap. 5) and executive functions (Chap. 6) on how 15-month-old infants learn and explore. We showed that learning progress at the start of a matching-rule learning task but not the achieved score per se, predicted how long infants would stay on the task. We also investigated the existence of overarching exploration strategies in infants by looking at exploratory depth’s and breadth’s stability within the visual modality and between the visual and manual modalities, as well as their link with individual differences in executive function. We only found evidence for stability in exploratory breadth between two sets of visual trials. This visual exploration breadth was positively correlated with participants’ age and visual working memory. Overall, this thesis brings together studies with different age groups and techniques which all point to the fact that individuals actively shape their own sampling of information in a deterministic fashion that suits their personal state and abilities.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2022 16:27
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:49


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