Prediction error boosts retention of novel words in adults but not in children

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Abstract

How do we update our linguistic knowledge? In seven experiments, we asked whether error-driven learning can explain under what circumstances adults and children are more likely to store and retain a new word meaning. Participants were exposed to novel object labels in the context of more or less constraining sentences or visual contexts. Both two-to-four-year-olds (Mage = 38 months) and adults were strongly affected by expectations based on sentence constraint when choosing the referent of a new label. In addition, adults formed stronger memory traces for novel words that violated a stronger prior expectation. However, preschoolers’ memory was unaffected by the strength of their prior expectations. We conclude that the encoding of new word-object associations in memory is affected by prediction error in adults, but not in preschoolers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104650
Number of pages14
JournalCognition
Volume211
Early online date13 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • prediction error
  • mutual exclusivity
  • disconfirmed predictions
  • memory retention
  • word learning

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