Cognitive Science Society Recognizes the Work of Berkeley’s Alison Gopnik

Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, is this year’s winner of the prestigious David Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science. Heralded as the Nobel Prize in the field, the award honors scholars who have made fundamental contributions to the theoretical foundations of human cognition. The Cognitive Science Society announced the honor — which comes with a $100,000 cash prize — at the group’s annual gathering in Sydney, Australia. Professor Gopnik will formally receive the award next summer at the group’s gathering in the Netherlands.

“For years, I’ve said this was the prize that really counted to me,” Dr. Gopnik said. “It’s the prize for establishing the foundations of cognitive science, which is what I’ve spent my whole career trying to do.”

Professor Gopnik has researched how children learn to understand their own minds and how, given limited evidence, they nevertheless make sense of the world around them. Lately, Dr. Gopnik has increasingly focused on artificial intelligence, which has its roots in cognitive science. “It’s logical,” she said, “because if we want systems that are going to learn, it’s essential to look at the best learners that we know of in the universe: babies.”

Professor Gopnik is the author or co-author of The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life (Picador, 2010), The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, And How Children Learn (William Morrow, 1999), and How Babies Think: The Science of Childhood (Orion Publishing, 2001).

Dr. Gopnik joined the Berkeley faculty in 1988. She is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal and holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Oxford in England.

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