One of the most natural human pheomenon is learning. In a matter of a few years, children learn all kinds of things, initially on a practical level, then on a more abstract, formalized level. Uncovering the mechanisms of learning is instead one of the trickiest challenges in the cognitive sciences.
The research discussed in the article provides evidence for the hypothesis that the mind is organised in specialized modules hardwired to process different types of information. Learning is understood as the process by which these modules are applied to increasingly abstract and complex information. The acquisition of the cardinal number concept, for illustration, starts as identification of regularities between sets of objects (e.g. seven pebbles laid out in a circle are equal to seven pebbles laid out in a row), permanence across transformations (e.g. seven pebbles in a bunch remain seven even after they are spread out) and across object types (e.g. seven pebbles are the same number as seven flowers). Learning proceeds in discrete steps of discovery, stabilization and generalization of specialized knowledge structures that select, integrate and organise information.
The article Structuration des connaissance par domaines et developpement, written with Stefana Broadbent, was published in Epistemologie et Connaissance (Mardaga, 1992).