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Babies Beat Bots

Feb. 22, 2023.
1 min. read Interactions

Infants outperform AI in detecting what motivates other people’s actions: new study

About the writer

Amara Angelica

187.5701 MPXR

Senior Editor Amara Angelica, an electrical engineer and inventor, was previously Editor of Kurzweil AI, working with Ray Kurzweil on The Singularity Is Near and other works

In a new study, researchers conducted a series of experiments with 11-month-old infants, and compared their responses to those of state-of-the-art learning-driven neural-network models.

Infants are fascinated by other people and observe their actions. They attribute goals to others and expect others to pursue goals rationally and efficiently. Conversely, “commonsense AI” — driven by machine-learning algorithms — predicts specific actions directly.

Infant understanding vs. algorithms

In the research, infants watched a series of Zoom videos with simple animated shapes moving around the screen — similar to a video game. The shapes’ actions simulated human behavior and decision-making. The researchers then compared their responses to those yielded by state-of-the-art learning-driven neural-network models with the same videos.

Results showed that infants recognize human-like motivations, even in the simplified actions of animated shapes; while the algorithm-based models showed no such evidence of understanding the motivations underlying the actions. Perhaps like the notorious Bing chatbot saying “I love you!”

Citation: Stojnić, G., Gandhi, K., Yasuda, S., Lake, B. M., & Dillon, M. R. (2023). Commonsense psychology in human infants and machines. Cognition, 235, 105406.

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