Adults Use Distributional Statistics for Word Learning in a Conservative Way

Suzanne Aussems, Paul Vogt

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This study examined how much adults rely on cross-situational information in word learning by comparing their gaze behavior in a word learning task with models of four learning strategies. We manipulated the input type of situations (consecutive vs. interleaved) and the co-occurrence frequencies between words and objects so that adult learners could infer correct word-object mappings based on cross-situational information. There are two key findings. First, an exposure-by-exposure analysis of gaze behavior during the word learning procedure revealed that most participants collected sufficient cross-situational information before they developed a preference for one particular word-object mapping, with consecutive as well as interleaved situations. Second, a classification approach in which individual gaze behavior was attributed to different word learning strategies showed that participants relied mostly on a Conservative cross-situational learning (XSL) strategy, compared to Associative XSL, Propose-but-Verify, and Random strategies. Adults relied on Conservative XSL when presented with consecutive and interleaved situations, but they shifted towards Associative XSL when presented with interleaved situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-242
JournalIEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems
Issue number2
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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