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Surprising Science

The Importance of Social Learning

At birth, children’s brains are prepared to learn from social agents—other members in a group. New research suggests this “social brain” helps a person learn over a lifetime.

Beyond learning social skills, Patricia Kuhl’s research convinces her that social interaction can be used to acquire specific types of learning skills, such as for math and science. Studies of how children acquire language through live social communications are leading researchers to form new theories suggesting social interaction acts as a “gate” that triggers different types of learning. Kuhl, director of the National Science Foundation’s LIFE Science of Learning Center at the University of Washington and the co-director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, is at the forefront of investigating these propositions.


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