|Title||Learning in infancy is active, endogenously motivated, and depends on the prefrontal cortices.|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2020|
|Authors||Raz, G., & Saxe R.|
|Journal||Annual Review of Developmental Psychology|
A common view of learning in infancy emphasizes the role of incidental sensory experiences from which increasingly abstract statistical regularities are extracted. In this view, infant brains initially support basic sensory and motor functions, followed by maturation of higher-level association cortex. Here, we critique this view and posit that, by contrast and more like adults, infants are active, endogenously motivated learners who structure their own learning through flexible selection of attentional targets and active interventions on their environment. We further argue that the infant brain, and particularly the prefrontal cortex (PFC), is well equipped to support these learning behaviors. We review recent progress in characterizing the function of the infant PFC, which suggests that, as in adults, the PFC is functionally specialized and highly connected. Together, we present an integrative account of infant minds and brains, in which the infant PFC represents multiple intrinsic motivations, which are leveraged for active learning.