Social Cues Support Learning about Objects from Statistics in Infancy


In laboratory experiments, infants can learn patterns of features that co-occur (e.g., Fiser & Aslin, 2002). This finding leaves two questions unanswered: What do infants do with the knowledge acquired from such statistical learning, and which patterns do infants attend to in the noisy and cluttered world outside of the laboratory? Here, we show that 9-month-old infants form expectations about co-occurring features remaining fused, an essential skill for object individuation and recognition (e.g., Goldstone, 2000; Schyns & Rodet, 1997). We also show that though social cues may temporarily detract attention away from learning events, they appear to stimulate infants to display learning better in complex situations than when infants learn on their own without attention cues. These findings suggest that infants can use feature co-occurrence to learn about objects and that social cues shape such foundational learning in a noisy environment during infancy.

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