Intrinsically Motivated Developmental Learning using Schemas based on Developmental Psychology

Patricia Shaw, Henry Minsky, Suresh Kumar


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The study of human infants in developmental psychology is able to classify an infant’s cognitive growth into a series of coarse stages, where each stage builds upon the experiences and competencies gained from the previous stage. This developmental approach enables infants to cumulatively learn a series of complex skills that can be applied to problem solving. Intrinsic motivation, i.e. behaviour without external goals, can be used to drive the learning based on play behaviour observed in infants. Schema representations, inspired by the knowledge schemas described by the developmental psychologist Piaget, are used for symbolic representations to describe experiences and actions for learning.

This tutorial will investigate how the schemas can be applied for learning and generalising actions, which can then be used to build further competencies in a simulated scenario.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding the basic concepts of developmental psychology that inspire the schema approach
  • In-depth understanding of the schema mechanisms for learning, and generalising knowledge
  • Understanding of how intrinsic motivation can be used to drive learning
  • Applying these techniques to an application

The full-day tutorial is composed of the following parts:

  1. Theory: Talks by experts on the application of developmental psychology to schema learning in robotics
  2. Practice: Using the PSchema software to build and learn schema representations in a simulated environment
  3. Discussion and future steps

Tutorial Organisers

Provisional Schedule

Morning Session:

09:00-09:10     Welcome

09:10-09:30     Overview of coarse stage theories in developmental psychology (Patricia Shaw)

09:30-10:00      PSchema for developmental learning and generalising knowledge (Patricia Shaw)

10:00-10:30      Coffee Break

10:30-11:00     An implementation of Drescher’s mechanism for Piaget’s constructivist learning (Henry Minsky)

11:00-12:00     Introducing PSchema software, simulated environment and application for developing


12:00-13:00     Lunch


Afternoon Session:

13:00-15:00     Working on application

15:00-15:30     Coffee Break

15:30-16:30     Discussion and wrapping up