ERIC Number: EJ849126
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-May
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 31
Sensitivity to Sampling in Bayesian Word Learning
Xu, Fei; Tenenbaum, Joshua B.
Developmental Science, v10 n3 p288-297 May 2007
We report a new study testing our proposal that word learning may be best explained as an approximate form of Bayesian inference (Xu & Tenenbaum, in press). Children are capable of learning word meanings across a wide range of communicative contexts. In different contexts, learners may encounter different sampling processes generating the examples of word-object pairings they observe. An ideal Bayesian word learner could take into account these differences in the sampling process and adjust his/her inferences about word meaning accordingly. We tested how children and adults learned words for novel object kinds in two sampling contexts, in which the objects to be labeled were sampled either by a knowledgeable teacher or by the learners themselves. Both adults and children generalized more conservatively in the former context; that is, they restricted the label to just those objects most similar to the labeled examples when the exemplars were chosen by a knowledgeable teacher, but not when chosen by the learners themselves. We discuss how this result follows naturally from a Bayesian analysis, but not from other statistical approaches such as associative word-learning models.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
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