Segmenting a Continuous World using Statistical Learning
To learn a language, infants must discern where events begin and end. It is likely they first use statistical learning to help find the carving joints in events as their top-down knowledge is initially limited. Infants observe and engage in routines every day that are composed of reliable sequences of actions. The event of bath time may be followed by other events that also have predictable structure, like putting on pajamas or reading a book before bed. How do infants know when one event ends and another begins? Segmenting events into units is critical for anticipating future actions, imitating others, categorizing events, and learning words that label those actions. Segmenting events is a crucial step in mapping words – verbs -- to the action patterns babies perceive in the world., It is also crucial for mapping prepositions to events. Our research (Roseberry, Göksun, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2012) shows that as early as 10 months of age, babies are more interested in relations between objects (such as over and under) than in metrical changes between them (2 centimeters versus 4 centimeters over). These findings suggest that infants are attuned to relations that will later be expressed in language.
Some representative publications:
Stahl, A., Romberg, A., Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2014). Find the action: Infants segment continuous events using statistical probabilities. Child Development, 85, 1821-1826.
Roseberry, S., Göksun, T., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2012). Carving categories in a continuous world: Preverbal infants discriminate categorical changes before distance changes in dynamic events. Spatial Cognition and Computation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 12, 231-251.
Infants Can Identify Components of Events: Conceptual Underpinnings of Language