Josh Rule

My name is Josh Rule, and I study cognitive science under Dr. Josh Tenenbaum at MIT. I want to understand which concepts and algorithms people are born knowing, and how they build on those concepts over time to develop world-class expertise in fields like mathematics, the sciences, and computer programming.

Understanding the content and form of mental representations is important, because the right representations can make a difficult problem trivial. For example, while it is physically impossible to describe the number of atoms in the universe with tallies (each tally mark is itself composed of millions of atoms), it only takes five characters using modern notation: 10^80. And, while the knowledge and skills of a world-class surgeon seem wildly different from that of a world-class pianist, both experts were once unskilled infants. It is not enough just to understand the representations supporting high-level performance. We must also understand how they are learned, and from which initial concepts. To explore these and related questions, I use a combination of computational modeling and experimental work in children and adults.

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