Multiple variable cues in the environment promote accurate and robust word learning.

Padraic Monaghan*, James Brand, Rebecca L.A. Frost, Gemma Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

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Learning how words refer to aspects of the environment is a complex task, but one that is supported by numerous cues within the environment which constrain the possibilities for matching words to their intended referents. In this paper we tested the predictions of a computational model of multiple cue integration for word learning, that predicted variation in the presence of cues provides an optimal learning situation. In a cross-situational learning task with adult participants, we varied the reliability of presence of distributional, prosodic, and gestural cues. We found that the best learning occurred when cues were often present, but not always. The effect of variability increased the salience of individual cues for the learner, but resulted in robust learning that was not vulnerable to individual cues’ presence or absence. Thus, variability of multiple cues in the language-learning environment provided the optimal circumstances for word learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsG. Gunzelman, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, E. Davelaar
PublisherCognitive Science Society
ISBN (Electronic)9780991196760
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Psychology


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