Lab members to present at CogSci 2016

We would like to acknowledge and congratulate lab members Dr Rebecca Frost, Dr Katie Twomey, Arthur Capelier-Mourguy, and Professor Gert Westermann for their accepted poster presentations at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Philadelphia, USA!

Title of the posters and abstracts are listed below:

Frost, R. L. A, Monaghan, P., & Christiansen, M. H. (2016, August). Using Statistics to Learn Words and Grammatical Categories:  How High Frequency Words Assist Language Acquisition. Poster to be presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Abstract: Recent studies suggest that high-frequency words may benefit speech segmentation (Bortfeld, Morgan, Golinkoff, & Rathbun, 2005) and grammatical categorisation (Monaghan, Christiansen, & Chater, 2007). To date, these tasks have been examined separately, but not together. We familiarised adults with continuous speech comprising repetitions of target words, and compared learning to a language in which targets appeared alongside high-frequency marker words. Marker words reliably preceded targets, and distinguished them into two otherwise unidentifiable categoriesParticipants completed a 2AFC segmentation test, and a similarity judgement categorisation test. We tested transfer to a word-picture mapping task, where words from each category were used either consistently or inconsistently to label actions/objects. Participants segmented the speech successfully, but only demonstrated effective categorisation when speech contained high-frequency marker words. The advantage of marker words extended to the early stages of the transfer task. Findings indicate the same high-frequency words may assist speech segmentation and grammatical categorisation.


Twomey, K. E. & Westermann, G. (2016, August). A learned label modulates object representations in 10-month-old infants. Poster to be presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA.

Abstract: Despite substantial evidence for a bidirectional relationship between language and representation, the roots of this relationship in infancy are not known. The current study explores the possibility that labels may affect object representations at the earliest stages of language acquisition. We asked parents to play with their 10-month-old infants with two novel toys for three minutes, every day for a week, teaching infants a novel word for one toy but not the other. After a week infants participated in a familiarization task in which they saw each object for 8 trials in silence, followed by a test trial consisting of both objects accompanied by the trained word. Infants exhibited a faster decline in looking times to the previously unlabeled object. These data speak to the current debate over the status of labels in human cognition, supporting accounts in which labels are an integral part of representation.


Capelier-Mourguy, A., Twomey, K. E., & Westermann, G. (2015). A neurocomputational model of the effect of learned labels on infants’ object representations. Poster to be presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Philadelphia, PA.

Abstract: The effect of labels on nonlinguistic representations is the focus of substantial debate in the developmental literature. A recent empirical study (Twomey & Westermann, under review) suggested that labels are incorporated into object representations, such that infants respond differently to objects for which they know a label relative to unlabeled objects. However, these empirical data cannot differentiate between two recent theories of integrated label-object representations, one of which assumes labels are features of object representations, and one which assumes labels are represented separately, but become closely associated with learning. We address this issue using a neurocomputational (autoencoder) model to instantiate both theoretical approaches. Simulation data support an account in which labels are features of objects, with the same representational status as the objects’ visual and haptic characteristics.