Study: Preschoolers Master Gadgets Faster Than College Kids

Your preschooler mastered your iPhone in minutes — and his age probably helped him do it. In fact, a new study found that young children are even better at figuring out how to use certain gadgets than college kids.


Young children may be less fixed than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, making them intuitive problem solvers, reports senior study author Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist at the University of California Berkeley.

To conduct the study, researchers asked 106 children (ages 4 and 5) and 170 college students to figure out a gadget that worked in an unusual way. They did this by placing different clay shapes on a special box to determine which shapes, alone or in combination, made the box light up and play music.

The college students acted as if the machine would follow obvious rules, even when they were shown that it might work differently. The preschoolers, on the other hand, figured out — rather quickly — that the machine was working in an unusual way and that they should place both blocks on the box together to make it light up.

Gopnik says the big question moving forward is what exactly makes young children more flexible learners. She suggests it may be because they are free from the preconceptions adults have, or are just fundamentally more exploratory in how they view the world.