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Predict and redirect: Prediction errors support children’s word learning

Authors
  • Reuter, Tracy1
  • Borovsky, Arielle2
  • Lew-Williams, Casey1
  • 1 Princeton University, Department of Psychology
  • 2 Purdue University, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
Type
Published Article
Journal
Developmental psychology
Publication Date
May 16, 2019
Volume
55
Issue
8
Pages
1656–1665
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1037/dev0000754
PMID: 31094555
PMCID: PMC6876992
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

According to prediction-based learning theories, erroneous predictions support learning. However, empirical evidence for a relation between prediction error and children’s language learning is currently lacking. Here we investigated whether and how prediction errors influence children’s learning of novel words. We hypothesized that word learning would vary as a function of two factors: the extent to which children generate predictions, and the extent to which children redirect attention in response to errors. Children were tested in a novel word learning task, which used eye tracking to measure (1) real-time semantic predictions to familiar referents, (2) attention redirection following prediction errors, and (3) learning of novel referents. Results indicated that predictions and prediction errors interdependently supported novel word learning, via children’s efficient redirection of attention. This study provides a developmental evaluation of prediction-based theories and suggests that erroneous predictions play a mechanistic role in children’s language learning.

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