Cognitive Psychology

  • Diversity not quantity in caregiver speech: Using computational modeling to isolate the effects of the quantity and the diversity of the input on vocabulary growth
    Publication date: November 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 98

    Author(s): Gary Jones, Caroline F. Rowland

    Children who hear large amounts of diverse speech learn language more quickly than children who do not. However, high correlations between the amount and the diversity of the input in speech samples makes it difficult to isolate the influence of each. We overcame this problem by controlling the input to a computational model so that amount of exposure to linguistic input (quantity) and the quality of that input (lexical diversity) were independently manipulated. Sublexical, lexical, and multi-word knowledge were charted across development (Study 1), showing that while input quantity may be important early in learning, lexical diversity is ultimately more crucial, a prediction confirmed against children’s data (Study 2). The model trained on a lexically diverse input also performed better on nonword repetition and sentence recall tests (Study 3) and was quicker to learn new words over time (Study 4). A language input that is rich in lexical diversity outperforms equivalent richness in quantity for learned sublexical and lexical knowledge, for well-established language tests, and for acquiring words that have never been encountered before.





  • Putting old tools to novel uses: The role of form accessibility in semantic extension
    Publication date: November 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 98

    Author(s): Zara Harmon, Vsevolod Kapatsinski

    An increase in frequency of a form has been argued to result in semantic extension (Bybee, 2003; Zipf, 1949). Yet, research on the acquisition of lexical semantics suggests that a form that frequently co-occurs with a meaning gets restricted to that meaning (Xu & Tenenbaum, 2007). The current work reconciles these positions by showing that – through its effect on form accessibility – frequency causes semantic extension in production, while at the same time causing entrenchment in comprehension. Repeatedly experiencing a form paired with a specific meaning makes one more likely to re-use the form to express related meanings, while also increasing one’s confidence that the form is never used to express those meanings. Recurrent pathways of semantic change are argued to result from a tug of war between the production-side pressure to reuse easily accessible forms and the comprehension-side confidence that one has seen all possible uses of a frequent form.





  • Editorial Board
    Publication date: September 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 97









  • An associative account of the development of word learning
    Publication date: September 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 97

    Author(s): Vladimir M. Sloutsky, Hyungwook Yim, Xin Yao, Simon Dennis

    Word learning is a notoriously difficult induction problem because meaning is underdetermined by positive examples. How do children solve this problem? Some have argued that word learning is achieved by means of inference: young word learners rely on a number of assumptions that reduce the overall hypothesis space by favoring some meanings over others. However, these approaches have difficulty explaining how words are learned from conversations or text, without pointing or explicit instruction. In this research, we propose an associative mechanism that can account for such learning. In a series of experiments, 4-year-olds and adults were presented with sets of words that included a single nonsense word (e.g. dax). Some lists were taxonomic (i.,e., all items were members of a given category), some were associative (i.e., all items were associates of a given category, but not members), and some were mixed. Participants were asked to indicate whether the nonsense word was an animal or an artifact. Adults exhibited evidence of learning when lists consisted of either associatively or taxonomically related items. In contrast, children exhibited evidence of word learning only when lists consisted of associatively related items. These results present challenges to several extant models of word learning, and a new model based on the distinction between syntagmatic and paradigmatic associations is proposed.





  • Parallel interactive retrieval of item and associative information from event memory
    Publication date: September 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 97

    Author(s): Gregory E. Cox, Amy H. Criss

    Memory contains information about individual events (items) and combinations of events (associations). Despite the fundamental importance of this distinction, it remains unclear exactly how these two kinds of information are stored and whether different processes are used to retrieve them. We use both model-independent qualitative properties of response dynamics and quantitative modeling of individuals to address these issues. Item and associative information are not independent and they are retrieved concurrently via interacting processes. During retrieval, matching item and associative information mutually facilitate one another to yield an amplified holistic signal. Modeling of individuals suggests that this kind of facilitation between item and associative retrieval is a ubiquitous feature of human memory.





  • The role of incremental parsing in syntactically conditioned word learning
    Publication date: September 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 97

    Author(s): Jeffrey Lidz, Aaron Steven White, Rebecca Baier

    In a series of three experiments, we use children’s noun learning as a probe into their syntactic knowledge as well as their ability to deploy this knowledge, investigating how the predictions children make about upcoming syntactic structure change as their knowledge changes. In the first two experiments, we show that children display a developmental change in their ability to use a noun’s syntactic environment as a cue to its meaning. We argue that this pattern arises from children’s reliance on their knowledge of verbs’ subcategorization frame frequencies to guide parsing, coupled with an inability to revise incremental parsing decisions. We show that this analysis is consistent with the syntactic distributions in child-directed speech. In the third experiment, we show that the change arises from predictions based on verbs’ subcategorization frame frequencies.





  • Clear evidence for item limits in visual working memory
    Publication date: September 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 97

    Author(s): Kirsten C.S. Adam, Edward K. Vogel, Edward Awh

    There is a consensus that visual working memory (WM) resources are sharply limited, but debate persists regarding the simple question of whether there is a limit to the total number of items that can be stored concurrently. Zhang and Luck (2008) advanced this debate with an analytic procedure that provided strong evidence for random guessing responses, but their findings can also be described by models that deny guessing while asserting a high prevalence of low precision memories. Here, we used a whole report memory procedure in which subjects reported all items in each trial and indicated whether they were guessing with each response. Critically, this procedure allowed us to measure memory performance for all items in each trial. When subjects were asked to remember 6 items, the response error distributions for about 3 out of the 6 items were best fit by a parameter-free guessing model (i.e. a uniform distribution). In addition, subjects’ self-reports of guessing precisely tracked the guessing rate estimated with a mixture model. Control experiments determined that guessing behavior was not due to output interference, and that there was still a high prevalence of guessing when subjects were instructed not to guess. Our novel approach yielded evidence that guesses, not low-precision representations, best explain limitations in working memory. These guesses also corroborate a capacity-limited working memory system – we found evidence that subjects are able to report non-zero information for only 3–4 items. Thus, WM capacity is constrained by an item limit that precludes the storage of more than 3–4 individuated feature values.





  • Editorial Board
    Publication date: August 2017
    Source:Cognitive Psychology, Volume 96









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