Introducing Meta‐analysis in the Evaluation of Computational Models of Infant Language Development

Cognitive Science 47 (7):e13307 (2023)
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Computational models of child language development can help us understand the cognitive underpinnings of the language learning process, which occurs along several linguistic levels at once (e.g., prosodic and phonological). However, in light of the replication crisis, modelers face the challenge of selecting representative and consolidated infant data. Thus, it is desirable to have evaluation methodologies that could account for robust empirical reference data, across multiple infant capabilities. Moreover, there is a need for practices that can compare developmental trajectories of infants to those of models as a function of language experience and development. The present study aims to take concrete steps to address these needs by introducing the concept of comparing models with large-scale cumulative empirical data from infants, as quantified by meta-analyses conducted across a large number of individual behavioral studies. We formalize the connection between measurable model and human behavior, and then present a conceptual framework for meta-analytic evaluation of computational models. We exemplify the meta-analytic model evaluation approach with two modeling experiments on infant-directed speech preference and native/non-native vowel discrimination.



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