How evolution may work through curiosity-driven developmental process

Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, Linda B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Infants' own activities create and actively select their learning experiences. Here we review recent models of embodied information seeking and curiosity‐driven learning and show that these mechanisms have deep implications for development and evolution. We discuss how these mechanisms yield self‐organized epigenesis with emergent ordered behavioral and cognitive developmental stages. We describe a robotic experiment that explored the hypothesis that progress in learning, in and for itself, generates intrinsic rewards: The robot learners probabilistically selected experiences according to their potential for reducing uncertainty. In these experiments, curiosity‐driven learning led the robot learner to successively discover object affordances and vocal interaction with its peers. We explain how a learning curriculum adapted to the current constraints of the learning system automatically formed, constraining learning and shaping the developmental trajectory. The observed trajectories in the robot experiment share many properties with those in infant development, including a mixture of regularities and diversities in the developmental patterns. Finally, we argue that such emergent developmental structures can guide and constrain evolution, in particular with regard to the origins of language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)492-502
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

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