Anyone who has been subject to a four-year-old’s seemingly endless stream of “but why?” questions can attest to the remarkably inquisitive nature of the human species. Even in infancy and early childhood, we want to know how the world works, what makes it tick – and we seem strikingly motivated to help other people attain the same insight.
While the ability to teach the right information, and learn from the right people seems crucial, it’s important to note that we never have a direct line of sight into others’ minds. Instead, we have to infer what an agent knows by observing their behavior. How do we use these indirect cues to decide who to learn from, or what to teach? What kinds representations underlie our abilities, and what types of selection pressures may have caused these abilities to emerge? My research will integrate comparative, behavioral, and computational methods to explore these questions.