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Extraneous visual noise facilitates word learning

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Publication date20/07/2017
Host publicationProceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsGlenn Gunzelmann, Andrew Howes, Thora Tenbrink, Eddy Davelaar
Place of PublicationAustin, TX
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780991196760
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Variability is important to learning; however, whether it supports or hinders language acquisition is unclear. 3D object studies suggest that children learn words better when target objects vary, however storybook studies indicate that contextual variability impairs learning. We tested a dynamic systems account in which background variability should boost learning by speeding the emergence of new behaviors. Two groups of two-year-old children saw arrays of one novel and
two known objects on a screen, and heard a novel or known label. Stimuli were identical across conditions, with the exception that in the constant condition objects appeared on a white background, and in the variable condition backgrounds were colored. Only children in the variable condition showed evidence of word learning, suggesting that extraneous variability supports learning by decontextualizing representations, and indicating that adding low-level entropy
to the developmental system can trigger a change in behavior