Natural pedagogy

Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Apr;13(4):148-53. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.01.005. Epub 2009 Mar 13.


We propose that human communication is specifically adapted to allow the transmission of generic knowledge between individuals. Such a communication system, which we call 'natural pedagogy', enables fast and efficient social learning of cognitively opaque cultural knowledge that would be hard to acquire relying on purely observational learning mechanisms alone. We argue that human infants are prepared to be at the receptive side of natural pedagogy (i) by being sensitive to ostensive signals that indicate that they are being addressed by communication, (ii) by developing referential expectations in ostensive contexts and (iii) by being biased to interpret ostensive-referential communication as conveying information that is kind-relevant and generalizable.

MeSH terms

  • Child Development
  • Communication*
  • Concept Formation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Learning / physiology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception*
  • Teaching