What makes human social learning so distinctive, powerful, and smart? In this talk I argue that human social learning & teaching is inferential at its core. Starting early in life, humans use their social intelligence to (1) learn from evidence generated by others, (2) evaluate others depending on their informativeness, and even (3) become helpful teachers who generate useful evidence that help others learn. In particular, the ability to reason about others’ expected utility of learning is key to formation, curation, and transmission of cultural knowledge. I end by introducing how this seemingly simple picture of teacher-learner interactions can be extended to explain a broader scope of distinctively human social interactions.


Hyowon (Hyo) Gweon (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. She is broadly interested in how people reason about others, learn from others, and communicate with others; her research combines developmental, computational, and neuroimaging methods to explain the cognitive mechanisms that support distinctively human learning, communication, and prosocial behaviors. She received her PhD in Cognitive Science (2012) from MIT where she stayed as a post-doc before joining Stanford in 2014. Her work has been recognized by the APS Janet Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions (2020), Jacobs Early Career Fellowship (2020), James S. McDonnell Scholar Award for Human Cognition (2018), APA Dissertation Award (2014), and the Marr Prize @CogSci 2010. To learn more, visit our lab website (twitter: @hyogweon).