Beyond Naive Cue Combination: Salience and Social Cues in Early Word Learning

Daniel YurovskyStanford University
Michael FrankStanford University

Abstract

Children learn their earliest words through social interaction, but it is unknown how much they use social information. Some theories argue that word learning is fundamentally social from its outset, with even the youngest infants understanding intentions and using them to infer a social partner’s target of reference. In contrast, other theories argue that early word learn- ing is largely a perceptual process in which young children map words onto salient objects. One way of unifying these ac- counts is to model word learning as weighted cue-combination in which children attend to many potential cues to reference, but only gradually learn the correct weight to assign each cue (Hollich, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2000). We test 3 predictions of a naive cue-combination account and show each to be incorrect. Thus, while aspects of this unifying account are correct, it must be amended to capture the dynamics of children’s behavior across differing referential situations.

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Beyond Naive Cue Combination: Salience and Social Cues in Early Word Learning (2.8 MB)



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