Adults Track Multiple Hypotheses Simultaneously during Word Learning

Abstract

Cross-situational learning is a basic mechanism that enables people to infer the correct referent for a novel word by tracking multiple hypotheses simultaneously across exposures. Previous research has shown that adults are capable of exploiting cross-situational information, but recently this gradual statistical learning mechanism has been put under debate by researchers who argue that people learn via a fast mapping procedure. We compared the performance of adult participants on a word learning task in which information was manipulated cross-situationally with the performance of simulated learning strategies. Experimental evidence indicates that adults use cross-situational learning, which appears to be a robust mechanism that facilitates word learning even under cognitively demanding circumstances.


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