It is unclear how children learn labels for multiple overlapping categories such as “Labrador,” “dog,” and “animal.” Xu and Tenenbaum suggested that learners infer correct meanings with the help of Bayesian inference. They instantiated these claims in a Bayesian model, which they tested with preschoolers and adults. Here, we report data testing a developmental prediction of the Bayesian model—that more knowledge should lead to narrower category inferences when presented with multiple subordinate exemplars. Two experiments did not support this prediction. Children (...) with more category knowledge showed broader generalization when presented with multiple subordinate exemplars, compared to less knowledgeable children and adults. This implies a U-shaped developmental trend. The Bayesian model was not able to account for these data, even with inputs that reflected the similarity judgments of children. We discuss implications for the Bayesian model, including a combined Bayesian/morphological knowledge account that could explain the demonstrated U-shaped trend. (shrink)
Theories of cognitive development must address both the issue of how children bring their knowledge to bear on behavior in‐the‐moment, and how knowledge changes over time. We argue that seeking answers to these questions requires an appreciation of the dynamic nature of the developing system in its full, reciprocal complexity. We illustrate this dynamic complexity with results from two lines of research on early word learning. The first demonstrates how the child's active engagement with objects and people supports referent selection (...) via memories for what objects were previously seen in a cued location. The second set of results highlights changes in the role of novelty and attentional processes in referent selection and retention as children's knowledge of words and objects grows. Together this work suggests that understanding systems for perception, action, attention, and memory, and their complex interaction, is critical to understand word learning. We review recent literature that highlights the complex interactions between these processes in cognitive development and point to critical issues for future work. (shrink)
Identifying the referent of novel words is a complex process that young children do with relative ease. When given multiple objects along with a novel word, children select the most novel item, sometimes retaining the word‐referent link. Prior work is inconsistent, however, on the role of object novelty. Two experiments examine 18‐month‐old children's performance on referent selection and retention with novel and known words. The results reveal a pervasive novelty bias on referent selection with both known and novel names and, (...) across individual children, a negative correlation between attention to novelty and retention of new word‐referent links. A computational model examines possible sources of the bias, suggesting novelty supports in‐the‐moment behavior but not retention. Together, results suggest that when lexical knowledge is weak, attention to novelty drives behavior, but alone does not sustain learning. Importantly, the results demonstrate that word learning may be driven, in part, by low‐level perceptual processes. (shrink)
Marr's seminal work laid out a program of research by specifying key questions for cognitive science at different levels of analysis. Because dynamic systems theory focuses on time and interdependence of components, DST research programs come to very different conclusions regarding the nature of cognitive change. We review a specific DST approach to cognitive-level processes: dynamic field theory. We review research applying DFT to several cognitive-level processes: object permanence, naming hierarchical categories, and inferring intent, that demonstrate the difference in understanding (...) of behavior and cognition that results from a DST perspective. These point to a central challenge for cognitive science research as defined by Marr—emergence. We argue that appreciating emergence raises questions about the utility of computational-level analyses and opens the door to insights concerning the origin of novel forms of behavior and thought. We contend this is one of the most fundamental questions about cognition and behavior. (shrink)
Though we agree with their argument that language is shaped by domain-general learning processes, Christiansen & Chater (C&C) neglect to detail how the development of these processes shapes language change. We discuss a number of examples that show how developmental processes at multiple levels and timescales are critical to understanding the origin of domain-general mechanisms that shape language evolution.
According to Jones & Love (J&L), Bayesian theories are too often isolated from other theories and behavioral processes. Here, we highlight examples of two types of isolation from the field of word learning. Specifically, Bayesian theories ignore emergence, critical to development theory, and have not probed the behavioral details of several key phenomena, such as the effect.