Published by Elsevier BV

Print ISSN: 0010-0277


Comparison and the development of knowledge
  • Article

February 2007


422 Reads

This paper considers the role of comparison in the development of knowledge. Results show that comparing similar objects makes them appear more similar. Comparing dissimilar objects, on the other hand does not make them appear more similar, and in some circumstances may make them appear less similar. The effect of comparison on similar items was especially striking since participants judged items to be more similar after comparison even if the comparison task was to list differences between the two items. Further, this effect appears specific to comparison and does not appear to be simply due to a "fleshing out" of object representations (listing properties of two objects without comparing the objects themselves served to increase the objects' similarity regardless of whether the objects were similar or dissimilar to start). This suggests that comparison may play a special role in partitioning bits of experience into categories, sharpening categorical boundaries, and otherwise helping us create conceptual structure above and beyond that offered by the world.

Fig. 1. Contrast sensitivity function (CSF) for adults, 1-month-old infants (Banks & Salapatek, 1978) and newborns (Acerra et al., 2002). c/d D cycle per degree.
Fig. 3. Time (s) to habituate to Wltered faces in Experiments 1 and 2.
Fig. 4. Percentages (%) of preference for Novelty in Experiments 1 and 2.
Newborns' face recognition is based on spatial frequencies below 0.5 cycles per degree
  • Article
  • Full-text available

February 2008


407 Reads



Bruno Rossion




A critical question in Cognitive Science concerns how knowledge of specific domains emerges during development. Here we examined how limitations of the visual system during the first days of life may shape subsequent development of face processing abilities. By manipulating the bands of spatial frequencies of face images, we investigated what is the nature of the visual information that newborn infants rely on to perform face recognition. Newborns were able to extract from a face the visual information lying from 0 to 1 cpd (Experiment 1), but only a narrower 0-0.5 cpd spatial frequency range was successful to accomplish face recognition (Experiment 2). These results provide the first empirical support of a low spatial frequency advantage in individual face recognition at birth and suggest that early in life low-level, non-specific perceptual constraints affect the development of the face processing system.

Indefrey, P. & Levelt, W.J.M. The spatial and temporal signatures of word production components. Cognition 92, 101-144

May 2004


648 Reads

This paper presents the results of a comprehensive meta-analysis of the relevant imaging literature on word production (82 experiments). In addition to the spatial overlap of activated regions, we also analyzed the available data on the time course of activations. The analysis specified regions and time windows of activation for the core processes of word production: lexical selection, phonological code retrieval, syllabification, and phonetic/articulatory preparation. A comparison of the word production results with studies on auditory word/non-word perception and reading showed that the time course of activations in word production is, on the whole, compatible with the temporal constraints that perception processes impose on the production processes they affect in picture/word interference paradigms.

Calibration-based reasoning about collision events in 11-month-old infants

March 1994


79 Reads

Previous research indicates that, when a moving object collides with a stationary object, infants expect the stationary object to be displaced. The present experiment examined whether infants believe that the size of the moving object affects how far the stationary object is displaced. In the experiment, 11-month-old infants sat in front of a horizontal track; to the left of the track was an inclined ramp. A wheeled toy bug rested on the track at the bottom of the ramp. The infants in the midpoint condition were first familiarized with an event in which a medium-sized cylinder rolled down the ramp and hit the bug, causing it to roll to the middle of the track. Next, the infants saw one of two test events. In both events, novel cylinders were introduced, and the bug now rolled to the end of the track. The two test cylinders were identical to the familiarization cylinder in material but not in size: one was larger (large-cylinder event) and one was smaller (small-cylinder event) than the familiarization cylinder. The infants in the endpoint condition saw the same familiarization and test events as the infants in the midpoint condition except that the bug rolled to the end rather than to the middle of the track in the familiarization event. The infants in the midpoint condition looked reliably longer at the small-than at the large-cylinder event, whereas the infants in the endpoint condition tended to look equally at the two events. These results indicated that the infants (a) believed that the size of the cylinder affected the length of the bug's displacement and (b) used the familiarization event to calibrate their predictions about the test events. After watching the bug roll to the middle of the track when hit by the medium cylinder, the infants were surprised to see the bug roll to the end of the track with the small but not the large cylinder. After watching the bug roll to the end of the track when hit by the medium cylinder, however, the infants were not surprised to see the bug do the same with either the small or the large cylinder. Parallel results were obtained with adult subjects. The present findings have implications for research on the nature and development of infants' physical reasoning as well as for assessments of causal reasoning in infancy.

Structural generalizations over consonants and vowels in 11-month-old infants

September 2010


141 Reads

Recent research has suggested consonants and vowels serve different roles during language processing. While statistical computations are preferentially made over consonants but not over vowels, simple structural generalizations are easily made over vowels but not over consonants. Nevertheless, the origins of this asymmetry are unknown. Here we tested if a lifelong experience with language is necessary for vowels to become the preferred target for structural generalizations. We presented 11-month-old infants with a series of CVCVCV nonsense words in which all vowels were arranged according to an AAB rule (first and second vowels were the same, while the third vowel was different). During the test, we presented infants with new words whose vowels either followed or not, the aforementioned rule. We found that infants readily generalized this rule when implemented over the vowels. However, when the same rule was implemented over the consonants, infants could not generalize it to new instances. These results parallel those found with adult participants and demonstrate that several years of experience learning a language are not necessary for functional asymmetries between consonants and vowels to appear.

Statistical inference and sensitivity to sampling in 11-month-old infants

May 2009


81 Reads

Research on initial conceptual knowledge and research on early statistical learning mechanisms have been, for the most part, two separate enterprises. We report a study with 11-month-old infants investigating whether they are sensitive to sampling conditions and whether they can integrate intentional information in a statistical inference task. Previous studies found that infants were able to make inferences from samples to populations, and vice versa [Xu, F., & Garcia, V. (2008). Intuitive statistics by 8-month-old infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 5012-5015]. We found that when employing this statistical inference mechanism, infants are sensitive to whether a sample was randomly drawn from a population or not, and they take into account intentional information (e.g., explicitly expressed preference, visual access) when computing the relationship between samples and populations. Our results suggest that domain-specific knowledge is integrated with statistical inference mechanisms early in development.

Sensitivity to syntax in visual cortex. Cognition 110(3): 293-321

February 2009


95 Reads

One of the most intriguing findings on language comprehension is that violations of syntactic predictions can affect event-related potentials as early as 120 ms, in the same time-window as early sensory processing. This effect, the so-called early left-anterior negativity (ELAN), has been argued to reflect word category access and initial syntactic structure building (Friederici, 2002). In two experiments, we used magnetoencephalography to investigate whether (a) rapid word category identification relies on overt category-marking closed-class morphemes and (b) whether violations of word category predictions affect modality-specific sensory responses. Participants read sentences containing violations of word category predictions. Unexpected items varied in whether or not their word category was marked by an overt function morpheme. In Experiment 1, the amplitude of the visual evoked M100 component was increased for unexpected items, but only when word category was overtly marked by a function morpheme. Dipole modeling localized the generator of this effect to the occipital cortex. Experiment 2 replicated the main results of Experiment 1 and eliminated two non-morphology-related explanations of the M100 contrast we observed between targets containing overt category-marking and targets that lacked such morphology. Our results show that during reading, syntactically relevant cues in the input can affect activity in occipital regions at around 125 ms, a finding that may shed new light on the remarkable rapidity of language processing.

Fig. 1. 
Fig. 2. Mean looking times during the familiarization and test trials of the infants in the transparent and opaque conditions of Experiment 1 and in the preview condition of Experiment 2. Error bars represent standard errors.
Fig. 3. Schematic drawing of the preview, familiarization, and test events shown in the preview condition of Experiment 2.
Do 12.5-month-old infants consider what objects others can see when interpreting their actions?

January 2008


629 Reads

The present research examined whether 12.5-month-old infants take into account what objects an agent knows to be present in a scene when interpreting the agent's actions. In two experiments, the infants watched a female human agent repeatedly reach for and grasp object-A as opposed to object-B on an apparatus floor. Object-B was either (1) visible to the agent through a transparent screen; (2) hidden from the agent (but not the infants) by an opaque screen; or (3) placed by the agent herself behind the opaque screen, so that even though she could no longer see object-B, she knew of its presence there. The infants interpreted the agent's repeated actions toward object-A as revealing a preference for object-A over object-B only when she could see object-B (1) or was aware of its presence in the scene (3). These results indicate that, when watching an agent act on objects in a scene, 12.5-month-old infants keep track of the agent's representation of the physical setting in which these actions occur. If the agent's representation is incomplete, because the agent is ignorant about some aspect of the setting, infants use the agent's representation, rather than their own more complete representation, to interpret the agent's actions.

Partee, B.: Prototype theory and compositionality. Cognition 57, 129-191

December 1995


209 Reads

Osherson and Smith (1981, Cognition, 11, 237-262) discuss a number of problems which arise for a prototype-based account of the meanings of simple and complex concepts. Assuming that concept combination in such a theory is to be analyzed in terms of fuzzy logic, they show that some complex concepts inevitably get assigned the wrong meanings. In the present paper we argue that many of the problems O&S discovered are due to difficulties that are intrinsic to fuzzy set theory, and that most of them disappear when fuzzy logic is replaced by supervaluation theory. However, even after this replacement one of O&S's central problems remains: the theory still predicts that the degree to which an object is an instance of, say, "stripped apple" must be less than or equal to both the degree to which it is an instance of "striped" and the degree to which it is an instance of "apple", but this constraint conflicts with and the degree to which it is an instance of "apple", but this constraint conflicts with O&S's experimental results. The second part of the paper explores ways of solving this and related problems. This leads us to suggest a number of distinctions and principles concerning how prototypicality and other mechanisms interact and which seem important for semantics generally. Prominent among these are (i) the distinction between on the one hand the logical and semantic properties of concepts and on the other the linguistic that between concepts for which the extension is determined by their prototype and concepts for which extension and prototypicality are independent.

Specifying the scope of 13-month-olds' expectations for novel words

May 1999


42 Reads

Recent research has documented that for infants as young as 12-13 months of age, novel words (both count nouns and adjectives) highlight commonalities among objects and, in this way, foster the formation of object categories. The current experiment was designed to capture more precisely the scope of this phenomenon. We asked whether novel words (count nouns; adjectives) are linked specifically to category-based commonalities from the start, or whether they also direct infants' attention to a wider range of commonalities, including property-based commonalities among objects (e.g. color, texture). The results indicate that by 12-13 months, (1) infants have begun to distinguish between novel words presented as count nouns versus. adjectives in fluent, infant-directed speech, and (2) infants expectations for novel words accord with this emerging sensitivity.

Perception mirrors production in 14- and 18-month-olds: The case of coda consonants

April 2012


33 Reads

In a word learning experiment, 14- and 18-month-old infants are tested on their perceptual sensitivity to coda-consonant omissions. The results indicate that 14-month-olds are not sensitive to coda consonant omissions, showing a parallel with the omission of target coda consonants in early child language productions. At 18 months, infants are sensitive to coda-omission. The study strengthens the hypothesis that phonological wellformedness constraints influence infants' speech processing in general, and might restrict what is stored in their initial lexical representations. A lexical representation lacking information on the target coda consonant is, in turn, a likely source for coda-omissions in production.

Strevens M. The essentialist aspect of naive theories. Cognition. 2000;74:149-75

February 2000


123 Reads

Recent work on children's inferences concerning biological and chemical categories has suggested that children (and perhaps adults) are essentialists - a view known as psychological essentialism. I distinguish three varieties of psychological essentialism and investigate the ways in which essentialism explains the inferences for which it is supposed to account. Essentialism succeeds in explaining the inferences, I argue, because it attributes to the child belief in causal laws connecting category membership and the possession of certain characteristic appearances and behavior. This suggests that the data will be equally well explained by a non-essentialist hypothesis that attributes belief in the appropriate causal laws to the child, but makes no claim as to whether or not the child represents essences. I provide several reasons to think that this non-essentialist hypothesis is in fact superior to any version of the essentialist hypothesis.

Can an agent's false belief be corrected by an appropriate communication? Psychological reasoning in 18-month-old infants

November 2008


319 Reads

Do 18-month-olds understand that an agent's false belief can be corrected by an appropriate, though not an inappropriate, communication? In Experiment 1, infants watched a series of events involving two agents, a ball, and two containers: a box and a cup. To start, agent1 played with the ball and then hid it in the box, while agent2 looked on. Next, in agent1's absence, agent2 moved the ball from the box to the cup. When agent1 returned, agent2 told her "The ball is in the cup!" (informative-intervention condition) or "I like the cup!" (uninformative-intervention condition). During test, agent1 reached for either the box (box event) or the cup (cup event). In the informative-intervention condition, infants who saw the box event looked reliably longer than those who saw the cup event; in the uninformative-intervention condition, the reverse pattern was found. These results suggest that infants expected agent1's false belief about the ball's location to be corrected when she was told "The ball is in the cup!", but not "I like the cup!". In Experiment 2, agent2 simply pointed to the ball's new location, and infants again expected agent1's false belief to be corrected. These and control results provide additional evidence that infants in the second year of life can attribute false beliefs to agents. In addition, the results suggest that by 18 months of age infants expect agents' false beliefs to be corrected by relevant communications involving words or gestures.

What infants know about syntax but couldn't have learned: Experimental evidence for syntactic structure at 18 months

November 2003


835 Reads

Generative linguistic theory stands on the hypothesis that grammar cannot be acquired solely on the basis of an analysis of the input, but depends, in addition, on innate structure within the learner to guide the process of acquisition. This hypothesis derives from a logical argument, however, and its consequences have never been examined experimentally with infant learners. Challenges to this hypothesis, claiming that an analysis of the input is indeed sufficient to explain grammatical acquisition, have recently gained attention. We demonstrate with novel experimentation the insufficiency of this countervailing view. Focusing on the syntactic structures required to determine the antecedent for the pronoun one, we demonstrate that the input to children does not contain sufficient information to support unaided learning. Nonetheless, we show that 18-month-old infants do have command of the syntax of one. Because this syntactic knowledge could not have been gleaned exclusively from the input, infants' mastery of this aspect of syntax constitutes evidence for the contribution of innate structure within the learner in acquiring a grammar.

Children reorient using the left/right sense of coloured landmarks at 18-24 months

February 2008


58 Reads

In previous studies, children disoriented in small enclosures used room shape, but not wall colours, to find hidden objects. Their reorientation was said to depend solely on a "geometric module" informationally encapsulated with respect to colour. We argue that previous studies did not fully evaluate children's use of colour owing to a bias in the enclosures' design. In this study, disoriented 18-24 month olds searched for toys in small square enclosures with two blue and two white walls. Children successfully reoriented using wall colour. This shows that they can make location judgments based on the left/right sense of the colours of adjoining landmarks. Performance was no different when symmetric colourful shapes were added to walls, but improved with asymmetric shapes which could be used without left/right judgments. The relatively poor use of colour in previous studies may be explained partly by a bias in their design, and partly by children's limited ability to discriminate the left/right sense of nongeometric features.

18-month-olds comprehend indirect communicative acts

December 2014


75 Reads

From soon after their first birthdays young children are able to make inferences from a communicator's referential act (e.g., pointing to a container) to her overall social goal for communication (e.g., to inform that a searched-for toy is inside; see Behne, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2005; Behne, Liszkowski, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2012). But in such cases the inferential distance between referential act and communicative intention is still fairly close, as both container and searched-for toy lie in the direction of the pointing gesture. In the current study we tested 18- and 26-month-old children in a situation in which referential act and communicative goal were more distant: In the midst of a game, the child needed a certain toy. The experimenter then held up a key (that they knew in common ground could be used to open a container) to the child ostensively. In two control conditions the experimenter either inadvertently moved the key and so drew the child's attention to it non-ostensively or else held up the key for her own inspection intentionally but non-communicatively. Children of both ages took only the ostensive showing of the key, not the accidental moving or the non-ostensive but intentional inspection of the key, as an indirect request to take the key and open the container to retrieve the toy inside. From soon after they start acquiring language young children thus are able to infer a communicator's social goal for communication not only from directly-referential acts, but from more indirect communicative acts as well. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Infants use known verbs to learn novel nouns: Evidence from 15- and 19-month-olds

January 2014


110 Reads

Fluent speakers' representations of verbs include semantic knowledge about the nouns that can serve as their arguments. These "selectional restrictions" of a verb can in principle be recruited to learn the meaning of a novel noun. For example, the sentence He ate the carambola licenses the inference that carambola refers to something edible. We ask whether 15- and 19-month-old infants can recruit their nascent verb lexicon to identify the referents of novel nouns that appear as the verbs' subjects. We compared infants' interpretation of a novel noun (e.g., the dax) in two conditions: one in which dax is presented as the subject of animate-selecting construction (e.g., The dax is crying), and the other in which dax is the subject of an animacy-neutral construction (e.g., The dax is right here). Results indicate that by 19months, infants use their representations of known verbs to inform the meaning of a novel noun that appears as its argument.

Developmental and acquired dyslexia: Some observations on Jorm (1979)

January 1980


158 Reads

Argues that A. F. Jorm's (see record 1980-25944-001) reasons—(1) impairment of grapheme–phoneme correspondence, (2) the effect of imageability on word reading, (3) patterns of errors made, and (4) short-term memory impairment—for regarding symptoms of developmental dyslexia as similar to those of deep dyslexia are unwarranted. Evidence supporting J. M. Holmes' (1973, 1978) position of comparing developmental dyslexia to surface dyslexia is discussed. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Null subjects: comments on Valian (1990)

March 1993


16 Reads

In this paper, I do not claim that any particular parameter-setting approach is correct, or even provide a characterization of subjectless sentences in children's speech. The only point of this paper is to show that Valian's argument that single-value solutions for setting the null subject parameter have insoluble problems is incorrect. Valian is correct that being able to analyze and interpret triggering data is a prerequisite for setting parameters, but a single-value solution of the sort described in this paper (and implicitly assumed in parameter-setting acquisition theories) is sufficient to do so; there is no need to invoke the dual-value solution that Valian argues is necessary. Furthermore, I argue that the single-value solution should be preferred on the grounds that (i) the mechanism I propose maintains many of the niceties of idealized parameter-setting acquisition theories whereas Valian's approach explicitly gives up on these attractive features of standard parameter-setting models, and (ii) it follows from dual-value theories but not single-value theories (depending on the nature of parameters and how many parameters there are) that parsing and speech production involve over-whelmingly difficult computations for children.

Processing separable complex verbs in Dutch: comments on Frazier, Flores d'Arcais, and Coolen (1993)

April 1995


48 Reads

L'A. denonce l'inconsequence de la logique de l'experience mise en oeuvre par L. Frazier, G. B. Flores d'Arcais et R. Coolen dans leur article consacre aux verbes complexes separables de la langue neerlandaise. L'A. montre que les donnees ne verifient pas les propositions theoriques que les auteurs developpent dans le sens de l'integration morphologique et des relations entre les processus lexicaux/morphologiques, d'une part, et syntaxiques, d'autre part

Top-cited authors