What is it like to be a baby? (Public Lecture)
Alison Gopnik (University of California, Berkeley)

September 18, 2019, 2:15pm - 3:45pm
School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SoPHIS), Monash University

Village Roadshow Theatrette
State Library Victoria, 179 La Trobe St
Melbourne 3000

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


  • Australian Research Council
  • Monash Neuroscience of Consciousness
  • Consciousness Research Network (CoRN)


Monash University

Topic areas



What is baby consciousness like? And what can that tell us about consciousness in general? I will argue that different kinds of consciousness are associated with different functions. In particular, I contrast the standard focused attention associated with ‘exploit’ functions such as goal-directed planning, with a much more diffuse but intense kind of experience associated with ‘explore’ functions like plasticity and learning. I suggest that the latter kind of experience is more like the experience of babies and young children. Adult states that replicate those functions, like travel, meditation, and some psychedelic experiences, may give us a hint of what children’s consciousness is like.

About the speaker 

Professor Alison Gopnik is the author or coauthor of over 100 journal articles and several books including Words, Thoughts, and Theories and the bestselling and critically acclaimed popular books The Scientist in the Crib, The Philosophical Baby and The Gardener and the Carpenter. She has also written widely about cognitive science and psychology for Science, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, New Scientist, and Slate, among others. Since 2013 she has written the Mind and Matter column for The Wall Street Journal.  

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September 16, 2019, 8:00pm +10:00

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