Simultaneous Cross-situational Learning of Category and Object Names


Previous research shows that people can acquire an impressive number of word-referent pairs after viewing a series of ambiguous trials by accumulating co-occurrence statistics (e.g., Yu & Smith, 2007). The present study extends the cross-situational word learning paradigm, which has primarily been used to investigate the acquisition of 1-to-1 word-referent mappings, and shows that humans can concurrently acquire both 1-to-1 and 1-to-many mappings (i.e., a category relation), even when the many referents of a single word have no unifying perceptual features. Thus, humans demonstrate an impressive ability to simultaneously apprehend hierarchical regularities in their environment.

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