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The Theory Theory 2.0: Probabilistic Models and Cognitive Development


concerning this article should be addressed to Alison Gopnik, Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94704; e-mail:


Abstract—N. S. Newcombe’s (2011) account of neoconstructivism opposes nativism to everything else—connectionist and dynamic systems theories, information processing theories, the “theory theory,” statistical learning, and Bayesian inference. But there is an alternative split that is equally important and that carves up the theoretical territory rather differently. This is a contrast between representational and nonrepresentational accounts of development. Whereas almost all nativist approaches are representational, among empiricists there is an important divide between those who, like nativists, embrace representation and those who deny it. “Probabilistic model” approaches, which include but are not limited to Bayesian learning, provide a developmental account that allows both representation and learning.