Friday, March 16, 2007

Kid logic

Last week, This American Life dealt with kid logic. This is where kids look at the evidence, use logic and draw incorrect conclusions. Their initial example was of one kid who told another that their father was the tooth fairy. Then for years that kid thought their friend's father was the tooth fairy and evidently, her parents played along by signing his name to notes when she left a tooth out. You can listen to the full episode here.

So we have one of these stories. It is to do with Child No.1, when she was four. It was then that she revealed to me that her mother controlled traffic lights. I found this out while we were stopped at a light waiting for it to turn green and I uttered some complaint. She told me that if Mum were hear she could change the light and we could go.

I enquired more as to why this was the case.

"Well, her car has a stick that if you move it down and press that pedal, the light turns green. Your car doesn't have that."

Ah ha. So what had been happening was this. Her mother -- who likes sports car feel and drive -- had a supped up VW Golf. When the light turned green she would whip into gear right away and off they would go.

To my daughter these events were virtually simultaneous. So she formed the view on causality that it was the stick shift that caused the light change rather than the other way around.

I asked her today whether she still believes this (at 8) but she doesn't. She does remember that she did once think so but has re-written her memory to suggest that this was claimed by her mother rather than some false hypothesis.

Update: here is a site that collects these things.