Michael C. Frank's research while affiliated with Stanford University and other places

Publications (271)

Article
The notion of equality (identity) is simple and ubiquitous, making it a key case study for broader questions about the representations supporting abstract relational reasoning. Previous work suggested that neural networks were not suitable models of human relational reasoning because they could not represent mathematically identity, the most basic...
Article
Infancy researchers often use highly simplified, animated, or otherwise artificial stimuli to study infant’s understanding of abstract concepts including “causality” or even “prosociality”. The use of these simplified stimuli have led to questions about the validity of the resulting empirical findings. Do simplified stimuli effectively communicate...
Article
The linguistic input children receive across early childhood plays a crucial role in shaping their knowledge about the world. To study this input, researchers have begun applying distributional semantic models to large corpora of child‐directed speech, extracting various patterns of word use/co‐occurrence. Previous work using these models has not m...
Preprint
Pragmatics is foundational to language use and learning. Computational cognitive models have been successfully used to predict pragmatic phenomena in adults and children -- on an aggregate level. It is unclear if they can be used to predict behavior on an individual level. We address this question in children (N = 60, 3- to 5-year-olds), taking adv...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose Measuring the growth of young children's vocabulary is important for researchers seeking to understand language learning as well as for clinicians aiming to identify early deficits. The MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDIs) are parent report instruments that offer a reliable and valid method for measuring early produc...
Preprint
From birth, humans constantly make decisions about what to look at and for how long. Yet the mechanism behind such decision-making remains poorly understood. Here we present the rational action, noisy choice for habituation (RANCH) model. RANCH is a rational learning model that takes noisy perceptual samples from stimuli and makes sampling decision...
Preprint
In recent years, open science policies have proliferated in the social and behavioral sciences, including sharing of study designs, protocols, and data as well as pre-registration of hypotheses. Developmental research has moved more slowly than some other disciplines in adopting open science practices, in part because not all developmental science...
Preprint
In order for children to understand and reason about the world in an adult-like fashion, they need to learn that conceptual categories are organized in a hierarchical fashion (e.g., a dog is also an animal). The caregiver’s linguistic input can play an important role in this learning, and previous studies have documented several cues in parental ta...
Preprint
From classrooms to dinner parties, many of our everyday conversations take place in larger groups where speakers address multiple listeners at once. Such multiparty settings raise a number of challenges for classical theories of communication, which largely focus on dyadic interactions. In this study, we investigated how speakers adapt their referr...
Preprint
Pragmatic abilities are fundamental to successful language use and learning. Individual differences studies contribute to understanding the psychological processes involved in pragmatic reasoning. Small sample sizes, insufficient measurement tools, and a lack of theoretical precision have hindered progress, however. Three studies addressed these ch...
Article
Languages are powerful solutions to coordination problems: They provide stable, shared expectations about how the words we say correspond to the beliefs and intentions in our heads. Yet, language use in a variable and nonstationary social environment requires linguistic representations to be flexible: Old words acquire new ad hoc or partner-specifi...
Article
Language is learned in complex social settings where listeners must reconstruct speakers' intended meanings from context. To navigate this challenge, children can use pragmatic reasoning to learn the meaning of unfamiliar words. A critical challenge for pragmatic reasoning is that it requires integrating multiple information sources, which have typ...
Article
Full-text available
What is the best way to estimate the size of important effects? Should we aggregate across disparate findings using statistical meta-analysis, or instead run large, multi-laboratory replications (MLR)? A recent paper by Kvarven, Strømland and Johannesson (Kvarven et al. 2020 Nat. Hum. Behav. 4, 423-434. (doi:10.1038/s41562-019-0787-z)) compared eff...
Presentation
Full-text available
Meta-analyses are costly to conduct, often impossible to reanalyze, and outdated as soon as a new study emerges. How can we lower these hurdles, make data more accessible to researchers, and transform meta-analyses into a living resource? MetaLab (https://metalab.stanford.edu/) is an interactive platform that hosts community-augmented meta-analyses...
Article
Yarkoni's analysis clearly articulates a number of concerns limiting the generalizability and explanatory power of psychological findings, many of which are compounded in infancy research. ManyBabies addresses these concerns via a radically collaborative, large-scale and open approach to research that is grounded in theory-building, committed to di...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting closure of daycare centers worldwide, led to unprecedented changes in children’s learning environments. This period of increased time at home with caregivers, with limited access to external sources (e.g., daycares) provides a unique opportunity to examine the associations between the caregiver-child activit...
Preprint
The ability to rapidly recognize words and link them to referents is central to children’s early language development. This ability, often called word recognition in the developmental literature, is typically studied in the looking-while-listening paradigm, which measures infants’ fixation on a target object (vs. a distractor) after hearing a targe...
Article
A standard model is a theoretical framework that synthesizes observables into a quantitative consensus. Have researchers made progress toward this kind of synthesis for children’s early language learning? Many computational models of early vocabulary learning assume that individual words are learned through an accumulation of environmental input. T...
Article
How do postural developments affect infants’ access to social information? We recorded egocentric and third‐person video while infants and their caregivers (N = 36, 8‐ to 16‐month‐olds, N = 19 females) participated in naturalistic play sessions. We then validated the use of a neural network pose detection model to detect faces and hands in the infa...
Article
Full-text available
Online data collection methods are expanding the ease and access of developmental research for researchers and participants alike. While its popularity among developmental scientists has soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, its potential goes beyond just a means for safe, socially distanced data collection. In particular, advances in video conferen...
Article
Full-text available
The majority of research on infants’ and children’s understanding of emotional expressions has focused on their abilities to use emotional expressions to infer how other people feel. However, an emerging body of work suggests that emotional expressions support rich, powerful inferences not just about emotional states but also about other unobserved...
Preprint
Verbal communication is an ubiquitous aspect of human interaction occurring in many contexts; however, it is primarily studied in the limited context of two people communicating information. Understanding communication in complex, multi-party interactions is both a scientific challenge for psycholinguistics and an engineering challenge for creating...
Article
Full-text available
Disjunction has played a major role in advancing theories of logic, language, and cognition, featuring as the centerpiece of debates on the origins and development of logical thought. Recent studies have argued that due to non-adult-like pragmatic reasoning, preschool children’s comprehension of linguistic disjunction differs from adults in two way...
Preprint
Full-text available
By the age of two, children tend to assume that new word categories are based on objects' shape, rather than their color or texture; this assumption is called the shape bias. They are thought to learn this bias by observing that their caregiver's language is biased towards shape based categories. This presents a chicken and egg problem: if the shap...
Article
Full-text available
Before formal education begins, children typically acquire a vocabulary of thousands of words. This learning process requires the use of many different information sources in their social environment, including their current state of knowledge and the context in which they hear words used. How is this information integrated? We specify a developmen...
Preprint
Purpose: Measuring the growth of young children's vocabulary is important for researchers seeking to understand language learning as well as for clinicians aiming to identify early deficits. The MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDI) are parent-report instruments that offer a reliable and valid method for measuring early produc...
Preprint
Evaluating others’ actions as praiseworthy or blameworthy is a fundamental aspect of human nature. A seminal study published in 2007 suggested that the ability to form social evaluations based on third-party interactions emerges within the first year of life, considerably earlier than previously thought (Hamlin, Wynn, & Bloom, 2007). In this study,...
Preprint
Curiosity is a fundamental driver of human behavior, and yet because of its open-ended nature and the wide variety of behaviors it inspires in different contexts, it is remarkably difficult to study in a laboratory context. A promising approach to developing and testing theories of curiosity is to instantiate them in artificial agents that are able...
Preprint
How do postural developments affect infants’ access to social information? We recorded egocentric and third-person video while infants and their caregivers (N=36, 8–16-month-olds, N=19 females) participated in naturalistic play sessions. We then validated the use of a neural network pose detection model to detect faces and hands in the infant view....
Preprint
Curiosity drives much of human behavior, but its open-ended nature makes it hard to study in the laboratory. Moreover, computational theories of curiosity – models of how intrinsic motivation promotes complex behaviors – have been challenging to test because of technical limits. To circumvent this problem, we develop a new way to assess intrinsic m...
Preprint
What do infants and young children tend to see in their everyday lives? Relatively little work has examined the categories and objects that tend to be in the infant view during everyday experience, despite the fact that this knowledge is central to theories of category learning. Here, we analyzed the prevalence of the categories (e.g., people, anim...
Presentation
Full-text available
Background: Developmental psychologists often make statements of the form “babies learn to do X at age Y”. Yet summaries made on the basis of one or a few studies can misrepresent a messy and complex evidence base. True results may also not be generalizable outside of the specific testing context for theoretically important reasons including the la...
Preprint
The ability to rapidly recognize words and link them to referents in context is central to children's early language development. This ability, often called word recognition in the developmental literature, is typically studied in the looking-while-listening paradigm, which measures infants' fixation on a target object (vs. a distractor) after hear...
Article
Full-text available
The National Children's Study Cognitive Health Domain Team developed detailed plans for assessing cognition longitudinally from infancy to early adulthood. These plans identify high-priority aspects of cognition that can be measured efficiently and effectively, and we believe they can serve as a model for future large-scale longitudinal research. F...
Preprint
One problem language learners face is extracting word meanings from scenes with many possible referents. Despite the ambiguity of individual situations, a large body of empirical work shows that people are able to learn cross-situationally when a word occurs in different situations. Many computational models of cross-situational word learning have...
Preprint
Languages are powerful solutions to coordination problems: they provide stable, shared expectations about how the words we say correspond to the beliefs and intentions in our heads. Yet language use in a variable and non-stationary social environment requires linguistic representations to be flexible: old words acquire new ad hoc or partner-specifi...
Preprint
To what extent do visual concepts of dogs, cars, and clocks change across childhood? We hypothesized that as children progressively learn which features best distinguish visual concepts from one another, they also improve their ability to connect this knowledge with external representations. To examine this possibility, we investigated developmenta...
Preprint
Yarkoni’s analysis clearly articulates a number of concerns limiting the generalizability and explanatory power of psychological findings, many of which are compounded in infancy research. ManyBabies addresses these concerns via a radically collaborative, large-scale and open approach to research that is grounded in theory-building, committed to di...
Preprint
Full-text available
Young children typically begin learning words during their first two years of life. On the other hand, they also vary substantially in their language learning. Similarities and differences in language learning call for a quantitative theory that can predict and explain which aspects of early language are consistent and which are variable. However,...
Preprint
A "standard model" is a theoretical framework that synthesizes observables into a quantitative consensus. Have we made progress towards this kind of synthesis for children’s early language learning? Many computational models of early vocabulary learning assume that individual words are learned through an accumulation of environmental input. This as...
Article
Full-text available
The present study reports a large, cross-sectional study of Mandarin-speaking children’s ability to compute quantity implicatures. To chart the developmental trajectory of this pragmatic ability, we tested 225 Mandarin-speaking children aged 4–8 years on their interpretations of scalar and non-scalar implicatures, as well as numerals. Scalar implic...
Article
Full-text available
We introduce a new resource: the SAYCam corpus. Infants aged 6–32 months wore a head-mounted camera for approximately 2 hr per week, over the course of approximately two-and-a-half years. The result is a large, naturalistic, longitudinal dataset of infant- and child-perspective videos. Over 200,000 words of naturalistic speech have already been tra...
Preprint
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting closure of daycare centers worldwide, led to unprecedented changes in children’s learning environments. This period of increased time at home with caregivers, with limited access to external sources (e.g., daycares) provides a unique opportunity to examine the associations between the caregiver-child activit...
Preprint
Do children and adults engage in spontaneous Theory of Mind (ToM)? Accumulating evidence from anticipatory looking (AL) studies suggests that they do. But a growing body of studies failed to replicate these original findings. This paper presents the first step of a large-scale multi-lab collaboration dedicated to testing the robustness of spontaneo...
Article
Relational reasoning requires the reasoner to go beyond her/his specific experience, abstracting from items to make inferences about categories and kinds on the basis of structural or analogical similarities. Reasoning about the relations same and different is one of the best-studied cases of relational reasoning, both across species and over human...
Preprint
Understanding the mechanisms that drive variation in children’s language acquisition requires large, population-representative datasets of children’s word learning across development. Parent report measures such as the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDI) are commonly used to collect such data, but the traditional paper-based...
Presentation
Full-text available
Developmental psychologists often make statements of the form “babies do X at age Y”. Such summaries can misrepresent a messy and complex evidence base, yet meta-analyses are under-used in the field. To facilitate developmental researchers’ access to current meta-analyses, we created MetaLab (metalab.stanford.edu), a platform for open, dynamic met...
Article
Full-text available
Deep neural networks currently provide the best quantitative models of the response patterns of neurons throughout the primate ventral visual stream. However, such networks have remained implausible as a model of the development of the ventral stream, in part because they are trained with supervised methods requiring many more labels than are acces...
Article
Full-text available
For any scientific report, repeating the original analyses upon the original data should yield the original outcomes. We evaluated analytic reproducibility in 25 Psychological Science articles awarded open data badges between 2014 and 2015. Initially, 16 (64%, 95% confidence interval [43,81]) articles contained at least one ‘major numerical discrep...
Chapter
Young children typically begin learning words during their first 2 years of life. On the other hand, they also vary substantially in their language learning. Similarities and differences in language learning call for a quantitative theory that can predict and explain which aspects of early language are consistent and which are variable. However, cu...
Article
Full-text available
From the earliest months of life, infants prefer listening to and learn better from infant-directed speech (IDS) compared with adult-directed speech (ADS). Yet IDS differs within communities, across languages, and across cultures, both in form and in prevalence. This large-scale, multisite study used the diversity of bilingual infant experiences to...
Article
Full-text available
Replication studies in psychological science sometimes fail to reproduce prior findings. If these studies use methods that are unfaithful to the original study or ineffective in eliciting the phenomenon of interest, then a failure to replicate may be a failure of the protocol rather than a challenge to the original finding. Formal pre-data-collecti...
Preprint
Relational reasoning requires the reasoner to go beyond her/his specific experience, abstracting from items to make inferences about categories and kinds on the basis of structural or analogical similarities. Reasoning about the relations same and different is one of the best-studied cases of relational reasoning, both across species and over human...
Article
Full-text available
Language is a remarkably efficient tool for transmitting information. Yet human speakers make statements that are inefficient, imprecise, or even contrary to their own beliefs, all in the service of being polite. What rational machinery underlies polite language use? Here, we show that polite speech emerges from the competition of three communicati...
Article
Full-text available
In conversation, individual utterances are almost always ambiguous, with this ambiguity resolved by context and discourse history (common ground). One important cue for disambiguation is the topic under discussion with a particular partner (e.g., “want to pick?” means something different in a conversation with a bluegrass musician vs. with a book c...
Preprint
Full-text available
The majority of research on infants’ and children’s understanding of emotional expressions has focused on their abilities to use emotional expressions to infer how other people feel. However, an emerging body of work suggests that emotional expressions support rich, powerful inferences not just about emotional states but also about other unobserved...
Preprint
Infancy researchers have often drawn rich conclusions about early capacities to understand abstract concepts like "causality" or "prosociality" from infants' responses to highly simplified and artificial stimuli, leading to questions about the validity of studies utilizing these methods. Indeed, do these stimuli effectively illustrate abstract conc...
Preprint
Before formal education begins, children typically acquire a vocabulary of thousands of words. This learning process requires the use of many different information sources in their social environment, including the context in which they hear words used and their current state of knowledge. How is this information integrated? We specify a developmen...
Article
Ambridge calls for exemplar-based accounts of language acquisition. Do modern neural networks such as transformers or word2vec – which have been extremely successful in modern natural language processing (NLP) applications – count? Although these models often have ample parametric complexity to store exemplars from their training data, they also go...
Article
Full-text available
Risen and Gilovich (2008) found that subjects believed that “tempting fate” would be punished with ironic bad outcomes (a main effect), and that this effect was magnified when subjects were under cognitive load (an interaction). A previous replication study (Frank & Mathur, 2016) that used an online implementation of the protocol on Amazon Mechanic...
Article
We examined children’s spontaneous information seeking in response to referential ambiguity. Children ages 2–5 (n = 160) identified the referents of familiar and novel labels. We manipulated ambiguity by changing the number of objects present and their familiarity (Experiments 1 and 2), and the availability of referential gaze (Experiment 2). In bo...
Preprint
For any scientific report, repeating the original analyses upon the original data should yield the original outcomes. We evaluated analytic reproducibility in 25 Psychological Science articles awarded open data badges between 2014-2015. Initially, 16 (64%, 95% confidence interval [43,81]) articles contained at least one “major numerical discrepancy...
Article
Full-text available
We propose that developmental cognitive science should invest in an online CRADLE, a Collaboration for Reproducible and Distributed Large-Scale Experiments that crowdsources data from families participating on the internet. Here, we discuss how the field can work together to further expand and unify current prototypes for the benefit of researchers...
Article
Children tend to produce words earlier when they are connected to a variety of other words along the phonological and semantic dimensions. Though these semantic and phonological connectivity effects have been extensively documented, little is known about their underlying developmental mechanism. One possibility is that learning is driven by lexical...
Article
Cognitive development is often characterized in terms of discontinuities, but these discontinuities can sometimes be apparent rather than actual and can arise from continuous developmental change. To explore this idea, we use as a case study the finding by Stager and Werker (1997) that children’s early ability to distinguish similar sounds does not...
Preprint
The faces and hands of caregivers and other social partners offer a rich source of social and causal information that may be critical for infants' cognitive and linguistic development. Previous work using manual annotation strategies and cross-sectional data has found systematic changes in the proportion of faces and hands in the egocentric perspec...
Preprint
Full-text available
Deep neural networks currently provide the best quantitative models of the response patterns of neurons throughout the primate ventral visual stream. However, such networks have remained implausible as a model of the development of the ventral stream, in part because they are trained with supervised methods requiring many more labels than are acces...
Article
The field of infancy research faces a difficult challenge: some questions require samples that are simply too large for any one lab to recruit and test. ManyBabies aims to address this problem by forming large-scale collaborations on key theoretical questions in developmental science, while promoting the uptake of Open Science practices. Here, we l...
Article
Identifying a spoken word in a referential context requires both the ability to integrate multimodal input and the ability to reason under uncertainty. How do these tasks interact with one another? We study how adults identify novel words under joint uncertainty in the auditory and visual modalities, and we propose an ideal observer model of how cu...
Article
The language we use over the course of conversation changes as we establish common ground and learn what our partner finds meaningful. Here we draw upon recent advances in natural language processing to provide a finer‐grained characterization of the dynamics of this learning process. We release an open corpus (>15,000 utterances) of extended dyadi...
Preprint
Early parenting practices play an important role in shaping children’s future outcomes. In particular, high-quality early interactions can facilitate language learning and school performance. The rise of phone-based parenting applications (“apps”) could deliver low-cost interventions on parenting style to a wide variety of populations, especially t...