Fine-grained sensitivity to statistical information in adult word learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A language learner trying to acquire a new word must often sift through many potential relations between particular words and their possible meanings. In principle, statistical information about the distribution of those mappings could serve as one important source of data, but little is known about whether learners can in fact track multiple word-referent mappings, and, if they do, the precision with which they can represent those statistics. To test this, two experiments contrasted a pair of possibilities: that learners encode the fine-grained statistics of mappings in the input - both high- and low-frequency mappings - or, alternatively, that only high frequency mappings are represented. Participants were briefly trained on novel word-novel object pairs combined with varying frequencies: some objects were paired with one word, other objects with multiple words with differing frequencies (ranging from 10% to 80%). Results showed that participants were exquisitely sensitive to very small statistical differences in mappings. The second experiment showed that word learners' representation of low frequency mappings is modulated as a function of the variability in the environment. Implications for Mutual Exclusivity and Bayesian accounts of word learning are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-742
Number of pages14
JournalCognition
Volume107
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2008

Fingerprint

Learning
Information Dissemination
Information Storage and Retrieval
statistics
learning
Language
experiment
language
Word Learning
Statistical Information
Statistics
Experiment

Keywords

  • Adults
  • Constraints
  • Language acquisition
  • Statistical learning
  • Word learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Fine-grained sensitivity to statistical information in adult word learning. / Vouloumanos, Athena.

In: Cognition, Vol. 107, No. 2, 05.2008, p. 729-742.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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